pediatrics (pēdēăˈtrĭks) [key], branch of medicine dedicated to the attainment of the best physical, emotional, and social health for infants, children, and young people generally. Pediatrics became a specialty in 1930 when the American Academy of Pediatrics was founded with the idea that children have special developmental and health-care needs. Pediatricians devote much of their time to regular health examinations, as well as to preventive medicine and health practices. They routinely immunize children against such infectious diseases as influenza, meningitis, measles, mumps, and chicken pox. In addition to their immediate health-care duties, pediatricians act as advocates for children in endorsing public education, access to health care, and services to children. These measures have led to better development and health of young people as well as a dwindling of morbidity and mortality rates. The American Academy of Pediatrics maintains 41 sections consisting of members who have interests in specialized areas of pediatrics such as immunology, adolescent health, cardiology, emergency medicine, surgery and diseases of special organs and systems. A number of surgeons specialize in pediatric surgery, and pediatricians known as neonatologists specialize in the care of premature babies, critically ill children, and those with congenital malformations.
See historical study by S. Halpern (1988).