Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Department of Pediatrics

Advocacy Overview

Improving the health and well-being of children through advocacy is a defining element of the specialty of Pediatrics. Over 100 years ago, in 1904, Dr. Abraham Jacobi, considered the father of Pediatrics, stated, “….It is not enough, however, to work at an individual bedside in a hospital.  In the near or dim future, the pediatrician is to sit in and control school boards, health departments, and legislatures.”

This “beyond the hospital walls” approach is even more relevant today.  Dramatic decreases in child death from infant mortality and infectious diseases in the 20th century have given rise to 21st century ills which result from a complex interaction of behavioral, social, economic, and environmental factors.  To address these factors, pediatricians need to work both at the individual and population level, spanning the boundaries of medicine and public health.  

What is Advocacy?

Most children’s hospitals, if not all, include advocacy as a key component of their mission, recognizing that children have individual rights but no political voice.  Children are dependent on adults to speak for their best interests.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of advocacy, most physician advocates for child health agree that advocacy

  1. Is based on sound data
  2. Focuses on changing policy or systems
  3. Is directed at the community (geographical area or a defined group of people), national, and/or international arenas

Learn more about Feinberg's advocacy efforts in pediatrics via the links below.

Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH

Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH
Associate Chair,


Visit Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, blog on health, safety, and wellness.