David Satcher, M.D., Is Confirmed as Surgeon General
On February 10, the Senate voted to confirm David Satcher, M.D., as Surgeon General and Assistant Secretary of Health. A member of the American Academy of Family Physicians since 1975, Dr. Satcher comes to the position of Surgeon General from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he has been director since November 1993. Dr. Satcher also served as president of Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn., for 11 years.
Neil H. Brooks, M.D., AAFP president noted, “At the Academy, of course, we are thrilled and honored that the nation's ‘First Doctor’ is a family physician.” Family physicians from around the country expressed their support of Dr. Satcher to the U.S. Senate urging a prompt and positive vote. The vote came after a filibuster on the Senate floor by Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who expressed his opposition to Dr. Satcher's positions on some issues. Senators stopped the filibuster by a vote of 75 to 23, allowing the vote on confirmation to occur. The confirmation vote was 63 to 35. Over 100 organizations, including the AAFP and the American Medical Association, endorsed Dr. Satcher's nomination for the post of Surgeon General.
Fiscal Year 1999 Budget Proposal Is Unveiled
The Administration sent its budget request for FY 1999 to Congress on February 2. The proposal is for a balanced budget contingent on a significant tobacco settlement, relying on $65.5 billion over five years to fund various initiatives. The budget for the Department of Health and Human Services totals $380.8 billion, an increase of 6 percent over FY 1998. Of particular interest to family physicians, the budget calls for an additional $25 million for the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), increasing the agency's budget to $171 million. AHCPR is the only federal entity with a mission that includes primary care research. Health professions education programs that fund grants for family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics education programs would be continued at current levels. In previous years, the administration has proposed major funding reductions for these programs. Rural health programs would also be funded at current levels. The far-reaching budget proposal includes new initiatives that will require legislation to implement. These include the Medicare buy-in plan and expanded fraud and abuse initiatives.
HHS Releases Survey Results on the Health of Working Women
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the first comprehensive report on the health and well-being of America's working women. “Women: Work and Health” profiles key statistics for the more than 60 million women who are part of the American work force. The report includes chapters on workplace characteristics; health effects attributed to work, such as work injuries, illnesses and fatalities; health status as it affects work; knowledge of health risk and behaviors; and work-site health promotion programs and health-related benefits. “For the first time from any source, this report compiles the wide-ranging national data that are the most critical for assessing the complex relationship between employment and women's health in our society,” said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala.
The report was a joint effort of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in HHS, and the Women's Bureau in the U.S. Department of Labor, with support from the CDC Office of Women's Health. Copies of the report are available on the NCHS Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/nchswww/ and from NIOSH by calling 800-35-NIOSH (800-356-4674).
Administration Announces Historic Cancer Research Initiative
Vice President Al Gore has announced a 65 percent increase in funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the next five years. This is part of the Administration's proposal for an unprecedented $1.15 billion increase at the NIH in FY 1999 and a nearly 50 percent increase over the next five years. By 2003, the NIH will spend $4.8 billion on cancer research. Almost 90 percent of the cancer research money will be supported at the National Cancer Institute, but the initiative will also involve new and enhanced activities in at least 12 other institutes of the NIH. More than 40 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and more than 20 percent will die of cancer. The Administration believes that a significant increase in research has potential to improve early detection and diagnosis of cancer, dramatically increase adult participation in clinical trials, and provide all cancer patients and their caregivers with easy access to the latest information on treating their disease. The initiative will give Medicare beneficiaries access to cancer clinical trials.
New AHA Chairman Issues ‘Call to Action’ to Health Care Leaders
At the annual meeting of the American Hospital Association (AHA), John G. King, Portland, Ore., the new chairman of the AHA, told the leaders of America's health care institutions that they must act in five critical areas to improve community health care and sustain the public's trust in health systems. The five actions are (1) create user-friendly systems with efficient service and care, (2) improve the quality of care by providing more emotional support and more information to make care decisions, (3) create healthier communities through collaboration with other community health care providers as well as churches, businesses and schools to identify specific health problems and need, (4) provide an ethical environment in care and conduct, and (5) work for health coverage for all Americans. The Internet address of the AHA is http://www.aha.org.