Pediatric research discoveries over the past 40 years have led to prevention and treatment strategies that have saved millions of lives worldwide and seven of the greatest research achievements were presented on Sunday, April 26 at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting at the San Diego Convention Center. 

"Today, we often take these research discoveries for granted," said presenter Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, FAAP, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Pediatric Research. "Because of research and science in these seven areas, American children are healthier and safer today and will grow up to be healthier adults."

The research achievements include:

    1.Preventing diseases, such as rotavirus and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), with life-saving immunizations.

    2.Saving premature babies by helping them breathe.

    3.Reducing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with the Back to Sleep campaign, which urged parents and caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs.

    4.Curing acute lymphocytic leukemia, a common childhood cancer.

    5.Preventing HIV transmission from mother to baby.

    6.Increasing life expectancy for children with chronic diseases such as sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis.

    7.Saving lives with car seats and seat belts.

There are many vaccines that have saved millions of lives, said Dr. Cheng, professor of pediatrics and public health, and chair of pediatrics, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

"An example is the Hib vaccine for Haemophilus influenzae, a dangerous bacteria," she said. "When I was an intern not thatmany years ago, the hospital ward had plenty of kids with serious infections like meningitis from Haemophilus influenzae. Today, because of the Hib vaccine, current doctors in training, my interns, have never seen a case."

Another example of a life-saving intervention is putting babies to sleep on their backs instead of their stomachs. This discovery has decreasedthe SIDS rate by one half,said Dr. Cheng,who also is vice chair, Department of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and division chief, General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"We have come a long way," Dr. Cheng said. "But we also have further to go in understanding how to prevent and cure disease. There is a need for new knowledge, new vaccines and new therapies to maintain health and cure disease. It requires continued research."

Dr. Cheng presented "Great Achievements in Pediatric Research" from at 2:05-2:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, April 26, during the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) plenary.