The American Academy of Pediatrics says federal funding for graduate medical education (GME) needs to be increased to help address the shortage of pediatric specialists, in a newly updated American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement. The “Financing Graduate Medical Education to Meet the Needs of Children and the Future Pediatrician Workforce” statement, published in the April 2016 issue of Pediatrics points out that while U.S. medical schools have increased their enrollment to address the physician workforce shortages, there hasn’t been an equal number of federally funded training positions added for new medical graduates.

The group says there is a shortage of pediatric medical specialists – and a growing number of children with chronic health problems and special medical needs – but only three years of residency training are fully funded, while additional years of subspecialty fellowship training and other programs that train more specialized caregivers are funded at 50 percent. It also points out pediatric training programs face additional challenges because while most teaching hospitals receive the bulk of their GME funds through Medicare, pediatric residency programs based in children’s hospitals rely on less secure funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that must be re-allocated each year.

Among the recommendations in the updated policy statement, the AAP urges that GME training for all pediatricians, including pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists, be fully funded.  It also recommends increasing pediatric GME positions, stabilizing funding for children’s hospital residencies and expanding the sources of GME funding to include all those who benefit from a well-trained pediatrician workforce. Government, hospitals, healthcare systems, health maintenance organizations, the pharmaceutical industry, private and public insurers, medical device and equipment companies, health information technology companies and others, it says, should contribute funding to GME training without being able to influence the curriculum or training requirements.

Authors of the report said GME training is a “public good” that is essential to having pediatricians who practice the highest quality, patient-centered care that’s accessible to all children. “The need to fix our nation’s graduate medical education funding system has reached a critical point,” said William B. Moskowitz, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Pediatric Workforce and one of the policy statement’s authors. “It has to be structured so that it can produce a physician workforce that meets the evolving health needs of the country, and especially its children.”