STATEMENT: Border Crisis Could Cause Lifelong Health Impacts

Last Updated: Jun 29, 2018

FOR RELEASE: June 29, 2018
CONTACT:  Jeff Wirick, Pennsylvania Medical Society, (717) 909-2651

The following is a statement from Theodore Christopher, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. Dr. Christopher reacts to the possible health implications of migrating families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Theodore-Christopher-MDAs president of the largest association representing physicians in Pennsylvania, I ask the federal government to increase its efforts to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

It is well known that adverse childhood experiences from trauma often lead to lifelong negative health impacts. As a result, many physicians at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting earlier this month, including myself, were troubled by the recent news at our southern border.

More than 30 Pennsylvania Medical Society members were part of an AMA discussion about this crisis. It led to the AMA putting forth a statement that urged the federal government to withdraw its “zero tolerance” policy that was separating these migrating families from their parents and caregivers.

“We urge the Administration to give priority to supporting families and protecting the health and well-being of the children within those families,” the AMA said in its statement.

President Trump’s executive order reversed the child separation policy. But, as the American Academy of Pediatrics argues, putting children in detention with their families might be just as harmful.

According to the AAP, studies of detained immigrants have shown that children suffer from anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.

“Conditions in U.S. detention facilities, which include forcing children to sleep on cement floors, open toilets, constant light exposure, insufficient food and water, no bathing facilities, and extremely cold temperatures, are traumatizing for children,” the AAP said in a statement. “No child should ever have to endure these conditions.”

Regardless of how you feel about our nation’s immigration laws, it’s hard to dispute the wealth of medical research on childhood trauma. In my opinion, and the opinion of many physicians, to mitigate the potential adverse effects on the health and well-being of children, ensuring these migrating families are reunited in an expedient manner should be a top priority.

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The Pennsylvania Medical Society helps its 20,000 physician and medical student members return to the art of medicine through advocacy and education. Learn more by visiting or by following us on Twitter at @PAMEDSociety.

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