Influencing change - President’s blog

After returning from Nepal, Camilla shares the crucial work being done in the region with support from the RCPCH Global Operations team. There are also updates on her clean air advocacy work and the need for powerful and urgent collective voices, as well as vaping ban campaign win news and your final reminder to complete the member survey.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, RCPCH President

I had a pretty amazing week last week! I returned home on Thursday after nearly a week in Nepal with our incredible RCPCH Global Operations team. Sue Broster, our Global Officer, along with the indomitable Arvind Shah and Mithilesh Lal, and I spent our time visiting as many of the hospitals in Madesh province as we could to see our Global Links doctors and nurses, working alongside the local medical and nursing champions.

It was so rewarding to see the slow and steady impact the project is having. A new wash basin on a neonatal unit is such a crucial and positive step. Introduction of a well-constructed triage process in children’s emergency and outpatient departments seems like a very obvious thing to do for those of us who work in the UK, but this has only happened after lots of careful negotiation and engagement with clinical and managerial staff in several hospitals.

I was thrilled to see triage in action and to know what a vital step in patient safety this represents. 

Group of health professionals meeting in a hospital in Nepal
Camilla meets health professionals at a hospital in Nepal

The fundamental right to breathe clean air

Nepal is tragically in the top five countries globally for the poorest air quality. And the air pollution really hits you between the eyes – and in the back of your throat! We did not see anything approaching a clear sky at any point of our trip, and most of the time it seemed like there was a fog around us. With our ever-increasing evidence base for the negative impact of air pollution on pregnancy, fetal growth and development, and then child health, the impact on Nepali children is inescapable. Collectively, as a child health community, we must raise our voices to speak up about air quality – the message is powerful and urgent.

And this brings me to last Friday when I had the real honour of speaking about the impact of air pollution on child health at London City Hall. The event was the public apology issued by Mayor Sadiq Khan to the family of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the nine-year-old girl from South London who is the first person in the world to have air pollution recorded on her death certificate as a cause of her death from severe asthma. The Greater London Authority has accepted that it failed to act soon enough to tackle air quality which led to the untimely death of Ella. Rosamund, Ella’s mother and tireless campaigner for improving air quality, spoke too and the unbearable impact on her and her family of Ella’s death was all too evident.   

I remain absolutely committed to advocating for clean air for our children. I am so proud of the work that the RCPCH and wider paediatric community is doing to make the case for the fundamental right to breathe clean air. My contrasting experiences last week of Nepal and London have only galvanised me further – and I know so many of you feel similarly. Let’s keep up this very important work.

Campaign win to ban disposable vapes

It is incredibly rewarding to feel part of key steps to influence change. My hugest thanks to the many paediatricians who have been lobbying for and articulating the concerns about vaping in young people.

Governments across the UK have committed to ban disposable e-cigarettes and impose tough curbs to restrict flavours which are specifically marketed at children and ensure that manufacturers produce plainer, less visually appealing packaging. We now await the passage of proposed legislation, which also aims to create a smokefree generation, through Parliament over the forthcoming weeks. We should not underestimate how important this legislation will be for children's health and the environment and the powerful support of the medical profession has been fundamental to driving this through.

Our updated position on the role of paediatricians in children’s mental health

We have updated our position statement to reaffirm the role that paediatricians have in responding to children’s mental health needs. This is such a key issue, and the significant rise in mental health problems and the frequency with which paediatricians are seeing children with a range of mental ill health across all settings is a substantial change that we must all adapt to.

It is very sobering to know that 50% of lifetime mental health problems are established by the age of 14. However, we also know that paediatricians are well placed to support children in this. This is increasingly part of our core practice and I hope that our refreshed statement will make it clear what the College believes is our collective responsibility in this regard. We also know healthcare professionals cannot tackle the growing mental health emergency alone, and the statement sets out our national policy calls for greater investment, training and support for the paediatric workforce.

And finally – two reminders

Time is running out to complete the RCPCH Member Survey. Every member of the College will have received a personalised link to the survey in their email inbox. It takes no more than 10 minutes and is your opportunity to let us know what you need from your membership. Please check your email and complete the survey-we really want to hear from you.

And this Monday 12 February is the closing date for the early-bird tickets to our RCPCH Conference 2024 in Birmingham. Please don’t miss the opportunity to pay a reduced amount to join us at this excellent event. The programme looks brilliant and the opportunity to network and catch up with old friends and colleagues is unmissable!

With my best wishes to you – and take care,


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