Next month, experts from many fields will convene at Stanford’s third Childx conference to discuss challenges and solutions in child health. This year’s sessions on the theme “Learn, Collaborate, Innovate” span a wide range of topics, including early literacy, adolescent mental health, the childhood obesity epidemic and new gene-therapy approaches to pediatric disease. The TED-style conference happens April 12 and 13 at the School of Medicine's Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. Registration is available online.
“The pace of discovery in pediatrics has never been more rapid,” said pediatric pulmonologist David Cornfield, MD, a co-chair of the conference. Now, experts must figure out how to move discoveries from the lab to the clinic and ensure that all children can benefit from them, Cornfield told me. “We need people from multiple disciplines looking at the problems and opportunities involved. Stanford is uniquely well positioned to do that.”
The conference highlights a variety of Stanford experts: Keynote sessions will feature bioengineer Stephen Quake, PhD; psychologist and education expert Carol Dweck, PhD; and economist Raj Chetty, PhD. Bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University will also give a keynote address.
“We are trying to bring together many different disciplines, at many levels of analysis — from genes and molecules all the way up to public health and society — organized around children,” said developmental pediatrician Heidi Feldman, MD, who is co-chairing the conference with Cornfield.
The organizers hope to attract attendees from many fields as well. Physicians can earn continuing medical education credits by attending. Educators, academics, public health officials, political leaders and those from industry are all welcome.
The focus on kids is important because health innovators sometimes overlook children’s needs. “We need to maintain a focus on children to ensure that kids get the full benefit of emerging therapies and cures,” Cornfield explained. “If we don’t pay attention to biology from a developmental perspective, we’re unlikely to realize cures that can be applied to children. And those advances may also improve outcomes for adults.”
The Childx session on new gene-engineered and immune treatments will highlight Stanford advances that meld research findings about pediatric diseases with the latest medical techniques, he added.
Childhood also presents an opportunity for societal investments with enormous long-term payoffs, another focus for the conference.
“The key to having adults is healthy children,” Feldman said. “The key to a literate society is children who read well, and the key to economic growth and development is families lovingly supporting their children.” The conference session on literacy will examine collaborations between the health and education systems, while the session on mental health will highlight how academic-community teamwork can benefit kids.
The organizers hope the sessions will help conference participants forge connections that enable them to strengthen children’s health in new ways.
“This program sits at the intersection of ‘then’ and ‘next,’” Cornfield said. “It highlights where we’ve been in child health, and has an eye on where we’re going.”
Image courtesy of Stanford Childx