Original article by Dan Evans in Haaretz

The Israel Pediatric Association is launching a project to train pediatricians to treat not only classic medical problems, but also developmental and behavioral issues that the profession has traditionally neglected.

Some of the problems the "holistic pediatricians" will be trained to treat include sleep disorders, attention deficit disorders, weight problems and bed-wetting. Even if they can't treat the problem, they will be trained to at least identify disorders of the sort that last much longer than the flu, like possible signs of autism.

The model for the program was developed by Dr. Frank Oberklaid of the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

Three years ago, inspired by his work, the heads of Israel's pediatric association - chairman Mati Berkovitz and director general Zachi Grossman - teamed up with other organizations, including the Health Ministry and the health maintenance organizations, to create what is known as the Goshen Project, aimed at improving pediatric care. Training holistic pediatricians is Goshen's latest initiative.

The goal, said Berkovitz, is to provide training in developmental and behavioral problems so that pediatricians can "identify such problems more effectively and give parents a solution instead of sending them on to another expert."

Currently, children with such problems are often referred to child development centers, where they often wait months just to get an appointment. Grossman said the training will also help pediatricians identify potential problems earlier - "for instance, signs of autism, which in other parts of the world are identified even under the age of 1 nowadays."

Finally, he said, doctors will be trained to deal with problems such as sleep disorders that currently "fall between the cracks," forcing parents "to shuttle between specialists of all kinds without getting an answer." While some specialists might be wary of the prospect of pediatricians invading their turf, Berkovitz insisted that "there's plenty of work for everyone."

"A pediatrician isn't a substitute for other specialists, but in some cases, he may be able to propose treatment, and thereby ease the overall burden on the system,"

The training will be offered to all pediatricians doing their residency in community clinics. For doctors who are already certified, the pediatric association is offering two-day courses on holistic medicine. The first of these took place two months ago and was attended by 150 doctors. A follow-up session is planned for next year.

Ultimately, the association hopes to open 24 clinics specializing in holistic pediatrics over the next five years. The first will open at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, in several months, with funding from Hadassah Australia. The second is slated to go up in Safed. Holistic doctors will have to spend more time with their patients than the 10 minutes currently allotted, but Hadassah Hospital decided the extra time would ultimately pay off by reducing visits to specialists.