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Materials From Consumer Alliance Program Can Help Patients Make Informed Decisions
The Academy does not endorse the products of its Consumer Alliance partners, and the partners have no influence over the AAFP's policy development process or the content developed for FamilyDoctor.org. The AAFP maintains complete editorial control to ensure creation of balanced, evidence-based content that can help consumers make informed decisions. The content then is extensively reviewed by family physician editors, members of the AAFP Commission on Health of the Public and Science, and credentialed expert consultants.
When posted, each patient education piece is linked to a list of resources used in the development of that piece. Family physicians can print the patient education materials for use in their practices or refer patients to the materials online.
The First Alliance: Member Concerns Acknowledged
Last October, the Academy's announcement of TCCC as the first Consumer Alliance partner sparked an outcry from some AAFP members. What concerned most of them was TCCC's production of red-can Coke and other sugar-sweetened beverages that contribute to the epidemic of obesity. They also were worried that TCCC might influence the materials created for FamilyDoctor.org. A few suggested that the AAFP raise its member dues to eliminate the need to find more non-dues revenue. Some threatened to -- and a small number did -- resign their AAFP membership to protest the partnership with TCCC.
However, the just-published handouts should allay the fears about any TCCC influence over content on FamilyDoctor.org. TCCC had no role whatsoever in the development of that content, and the handouts don't pull any punches about sugar-sweetened beverages. Indeed, they note that "sugary drinks, including soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks, are the number one source of added sugar in the American diet," and they caution that too much added sugar can contribute to many health problems, including tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. Of course, Americans still may drink red-can Coke after reading these handouts -- but it won't be because they don't know the facts.
Other Benefits of the Consumer Alliance Program
This downward revenue trend required the Academy to go through a difficult and thorough assessment of all programs in 2008-09 (Members Only). The result was a 14 percent reduction in budget and elimination of more then 50 AAFP staff positions. Current information strongly warns that a large dues increase to support AAFP programs would not be well received by members.
Tapping into new revenue sources also is a response to member concerns about the Academy's reliance on pharmaceutical industry funding. Those concerns have percolated through the AAFP Congress of Delegates during the past few years, and the Board has listened. At the same time, the Board realizes that modest annual increases in dues at the national level cannot begin to offset the other revenue sources the Academy depends on to provide programs and services to members.
As a result of the Board's effort, the AAFP has placed new emphasis on pursuing government and foundation grants to fund its activities. Now, through the Consumer Alliance program, the AAFP is turning to grants from consumer product companies as well, but the Academy will always maintain a definite separation between those companies and Academy-created content and policies.
Additional Alliances on the Horizon
Furthermore, the Consumer Alliance program has the potential to provide much needed funding to support other member services, and it provides another venue to develop relationships that can be powerful voices in furthering other advocacy goals of the AAFP. In the process of moving forward, however, the Board is committed to making sure that a full range of members' voices are heard when potential partnerships are evaluated. Feel free to contact AAFP News Now with your thoughts about future Consumer Alliance partnerships.