News in Brief: Week of Dec. 9-13

December 11, 2013 04:03 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

[News in Brief]

Guide Aims to Help Practices Implement Comprehensive Health Assessment Programs

A new guide( from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides a framework and practical evidenced-based guidance for primary care teams that wish to implement health assessments in their practices. Developed with direct input from the Academy and using data gathered, in part, by the AAFP National Research Network, Health Assessments in Primary Care: A How-to Guide for Clinicians and Staff can help ensure effective implementation of primary care health assessment programs that include assessment, review, feedback and follow-up support for patients.

Obtaining periodic patient health assessments provides an opportunity for primary care teams to get a snapshot of the health status of the patients for whom they care. The assessment process involves systematic collection and analysis of health-related information that then can be used by patients, clinicians and other health care team members to identify and support beneficial health behaviors while working collaboratively to direct changes in potentially harmful behaviors.

Motivating factors for introducing health assessments in a primary care setting may include a desire to

  • systemically identify health issues in the practice's patient panel;
  • take advantage of incentives provided by insurers or accrediting agencies;
  • implement the Medicare annual wellness visit; and
  • support national initiatives such as the National Committee for Quality Assurance's Patient-Centered Medical Home Recognition Program and CMS' meaningful use standards.

AAFP Spotlighted on AHRQ EHC Program's Partners in Action Web Page

Last year, AAFP News Now shined a spotlight on resources from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that present the latest research findings and patient outcomes data for selected health care topics. This year, AHRQ is returning the favor by featuring the AAFP's efforts( to "increase awareness about tools to support evidence-based practice and shared decision-making among physicians, patients, and caregivers" on its Effective Health Care (EHC) Program Partners in Action Web page.

Now, AHRQ has added more EHC Program resource libraries, including collections on men's and women's health, as well as on heart disease. Also new is a separate library of Spanish-language resources that cover a wide range of health topics.

In addition, the agency continues to expand its collection of research reviews, summaries and reports, most recently updating resources to accompany two existing comparative effectiveness reviews: "Allergen-Specific Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Allergic Rhinoconjunctivitis and/or Asthma: Comparative Effectiveness Review(" and "Evaluation and Treatment of Cryptorchidism.("

Now available only online, print versions of these resources are expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2014. AHRQ also anticipates the release of free patient brochure holders for use in clinicians' practices at that time.

HHS to Lay Out $50 Million in Mental Health Services Funding for CHCs

Right on the heels of last month's release of final rules implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, HHS said this week( that it plans to announce a $50 million funding opportunity intended to help community health centers (CHCs) establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness and substance use disorders.

Made available through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the agency estimates that the funds will support behavioral health expansion at about 200 CHCs across the country. Specifically, the funds will be used for activities such as hiring new mental health and substance use disorder professionals, adding mental health and substance use disorder services, and employing team-based models of care.

"These new funds will further the department's work to develop integrated primary and behavioral health care services to better meet the needs of people with mental health and substance use conditions," said Pamela Hyde, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Free Database Offers Details on Primary Care Training Programs

The Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative recently announced the launch of what it described as a "first-of-its-kind database" that identifies primary care workforce training programs located throughout the United States.

Assess to the searchable database, which is called Strengthening the Primary Care Workforce: A Collection of Interprofessional Training Programs(, is free, and users will find information on nearly 100 academic and training institution programs that support students, residents, clinicians and other health care professionals in their efforts to provide patients with primary care that is patient-centered and collaborative.

Researchers Analyze 125 Years of Public Health Data

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health have collected and put into digital format 125 years of weekly disease surveillance reports published between 1888 and 2013.

According to a university press release(, the searchable database, dubbed Project Tycho(, is supported by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the NIH.

According to the release, the goal of the project is to "aid scientists and public health officials in the eradication of deadly and devastating diseases." The publicly accessible database will help officials track the spread of infectious diseases, identify trends and discover what treatments historically had the greatest impact.

Researchers selected eight vaccine-preventable infectious diseases for a more detailed analysis. Those eight diseases are smallpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A, diphtheria and pertussis.