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Tuesday May 01, 2018

What If Everyone Had a Family Physician?

What would happen if everyone could afford decent food and housing?

[question mark in printer's block set]

What would happen if children could go to school without fear of bullying or gun violence?

What would happen if everyone had a family doctor?

What would happen?

Would everyone be happy ever after?

Would children learn more and become solid citizens?

Would we see families stay together because they were less burdened by the economic strains that can pull them apart?

Would we see an end to obesity? Diabetes? Heart disease? Stroke? Hypertension?

What would we see?

Change comes slowly, but we're already beginning to see a shift in things like how we talk about violence, and care for the elderly, the poor and homeless.

No matter what you are working on, we have to communicate more openly. The AAFP has new tools in The EveryONE Project that can help us do that as we address these social determinants of health that our patients are experiencing.

We also must listen to one another, and not just say, "Either you are with us or against us." There is more than that dichotomy in this world.

Gray is a forgotten shade. Too many people see things as black or white. In a world that is too often about winning at any cost, we forget the reason we are here. We must remember: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

That verse is a two-edged sword. If you do good, then expect good. If you do not, then do not expect good in return.

It is my hope we will see a change in my lifetime or at least in the lifetime of my grandchildren -- a change that would allow each citizen of this great country to have his or her own family physician. The AAFP has longstanding policy regarding the idea that all Americans should have health care coverage in a primary care-based system. A recent proposal by HHS would take us further from that goal by expanding the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance that risks further destabilizing the insurance market and making health insurance more expensive for women and older, sicker individuals. As a better move, the AAFP has asked the administration to implement our proposal for a standard primary care benefit.(6 page PDF)  

The Academy also is working to address the need for more primary care physicians. For example, the AAFP worked diligently to protect the future of several critical primary care programs, which Congress extended in February. The Academy recently posted a Speak Out that makes it easy for family physicians to thank legislators for supporting the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program extension. More than half of THCGME residents are trained in family medicine, and such programs have a proven record of retaining physicians in communities where they are needed most.

The Bipartisan Budget Act, which doubled the 2015 funding level for teaching health centers, also included funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, National Health Service Corps and community health centers. These programs are vital for increasing health care access, and addressing physician shortages and the needs of vulnerable patients.

If everyone had a family physician, we could make an impact on diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke. We could see, through preventive measures, a decline in the need for dialysis as the incidence of kidney failure dropped, and decreased need for cardiac stenting and bypass surgery. We could see less suffering from chronic illness if people had a family physician they could call on for advice, treatment and preventive care.

The key at this point is to not give up, to continue to push for the change we need. That is what the AAFP is doing. You can follow the Academy's advocacy efforts, find resources and get involved on our advocacy web page. Lend your voice and help us bring changes that will make this a better place to live for everyone.

Leonard Reeves, M.D., is a member of the AAFP Board of Directors.

Posted at 11:30AM May 01, 2018 by Leonard Reeves, M.D.

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