Measles at Disneyland: One Doctor's Take

Pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown shares the most important lesson we can learn from the current measles outbreak and why parents need to find a doctor they trust.

Measles at Disneyland: One Doctor's Take Macduff Everton/Corbis

Over the course of my 20-year career in pediatrics, I have cared for all types of families. And, I have learned that there are many ways to be a good parent. There are a few golden rules for parents. Love your child unconditionally. Give him a nurturing and safe environment to thrive. And, treat your child with respect. How you "parent" with these essential elements is really up to you.

The cornerstones of the pediatrician-patient relationship are well child visits. Just in the first three years of life, we see kids and parents for at least ten well checks. The point of these encounters is to make sure a baby is growing and developing properly—and that means we discuss many topics such as nutrition, sleep, developmental milestones, safety, discipline, preventative health measures and healthy lifestyles. At times, a parent might feel like we are grading her on her parenting skills. We're not. These are health topics, not parenting issues. Unfortunately, parents sometimes misinterpret this as being judged. Some even lie to the baby's doctor to avoid confrontation. I'm not kidding. I think this is where some resistance to vaccination may occur. Parents feel like their baby's doc is judging a "parenting choice" when the pediatrician disagrees with some deviation from the recommended vaccination schedule. It's not a parenting choice, though. It is a healthcare decision—protection and prevention vs. rolling the dice and magical thinking. It is my job as a pediatrician to educate parents why a certain decision might be a bad choice and adversely affect a child's physical or mental health.

For pediatricians, we, too, have only a few golden rules:

1. Carseats save lives.

2. Vaccines save lives.

3. Don't let your kid eat raw honey until 1 year of age.

Okay, there are probably a few more than these, but here is my point.

It's not about you and your parenting. It's about your kid. Don't take it personally.

So, on to the measles At Disneyland....

This outbreak is due to bad healthcare decisions, not bad parenting.

Parents who opt out of vaccines truly think they are doing their best to protect their kids. The problem is the origin of misinformation and the social norms that have made delaying or skipping vaccinations suddenly cool and mainstream.

The solution is for parents to actually listen to the advice that their pediatrician is giving them. You have developed a relationship based on trust. Trust us. Vaccines are safe and effective and the diseases they protect against really ARE your worst nightmare as a parent.

I'm sickened that it takes children becoming ill to make parents realize the true risk of disease and the true benefit of vaccines. But, that risk-benefit analysis has been skewed by the irony of vaccine success—vaccines do their job—and parents have never seen these horrible diseases.

Now you have seen it.

It's not cool for any kid to get measles and it is definitely not cool to spread it to others. I hope this outbreak will tip the scales of American social norms and make vaccination sexy again. #firstworldproblems

Pediatrician and mom Ari Brown, M.D., is author of the Baby 411 parenting book series. Learn more at Baby411.com.

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