Guest Editorial

Health is Primary Hits the Road

March 16, 2015 02:07 pm Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I.

Increasing the number of primary care physicians in the United States could prevent as many as 127,617 deaths each year.( In fact, communities that have higher ratios of primary care professionals to patients have lower death rates for cancer, heart disease and stroke. And patients in such communities are less likely to be hospitalized for those conditions.

[Glen Stream, M.D.]

Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I.

Having a primary care physician isn't just good for your health. It's also good for your bank account. U.S. adults who have a primary care physician have 33 percent lower health care costs than those who don't.

If you're a family physician, you may not have known those exact numbers, but you likely already knew this truth: A strong primary care foundation improves both care and quality and lowers costs.

Unfortunately, too many people in our country don't understand the importance and value of primary care. Health is Primary( is working to change the way family medicine and primary care are perceived by the general public, including patients, payers and employers.

Health is Primary is a three-year communications campaign designed to advocate the values of family medicine, demonstrate the benefits of primary care and engage patients in the health care system. On March 19, the campaign will host the first of five city tour events planned for 2015 with a stop in Seattle.

The campaign is collecting examples of innovative, community-level initiatives that are improving primary care and delivering on that triple aim of better care and better quality at a lower cost. We want to spotlight not only communities that have boosted health outcomes but also the role family physicians played in those successes.

In Seattle, we'll bring together family physicians from Washington, along with other care team members, the academic community, patient advocacy groups and other health care stakeholders for a panel discussion that will highlight local success stories. We've also invited the media to learn more.

After Seattle, Health is Primary will make four more stops this year:

  • April 16 in Raleigh, N.C.;
  • May 19 in Chicago;
  • Oct. 2 in Denver; and
  • Oct. 21 in Detroit.

Based on what we learn from our five city tour stops, we plan to release a toolkit by early 2016 that AAFP chapters could use to plan their own Health is Primary events. Together we can demonstrate the value of family medicine to payers and employers and showcase the comprehensive nature of our specialty to patients and medical students.

Health is Primary is a product of Family Medicine for America's Health, a collaboration of the AAFP and seven other national family medicine organizations. The communications campaign coincides with a five-year strategic effort by Family Medicine for America's Health to improve the health care system by focusing on expanding access to the patient-centered medical home, ensuring a strong primary care workforce and securing payment reform.

You can get involved by sharing your own primary care success stories. And stay informed about Health is Primary by signing up to receive campaign updates.(

Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., is board chair of Family Medicine for America's Health.