Federal Research Agency Receives New Name and More Funding
As a result of legislation passed by Congress in late November, the name of the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) has officially been changed to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Under the new law, AHRQ is designated as the lead agency in supporting federal research and efforts to improve health care quality. Congress also agreed to provide $205 million in funds for the agency, a significant increase from the previous level of $172.8 million. In a victory for family practice, the new law formally establishes the Center for Primary Care Research in statute and outlines primary care research that should be supported by the agency.
“The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will build on the solid foundation established by its predecessor to fund the research and develop the tools that improve health care quality, reduce its cost, and enhance access to essential services for all Americans,” said John M. Eisenberg, M.D., director of AHRQ. “AHRQ will continue to serve as the nation's principal source of evidence-based research and information that will guide informed health care decision making throughout the health care system.”
Congress Funds Family Medicine Education Programs
Despite an effort by the Clinton administration to eliminate funds for family practice training programs at the medical school and residency training levels, Congress voted to provide $50.5 million for family medicine. The amount is consistent with the funding level for the previous year and reflects ongoing congressional support for the program. The omnibus spending bill was signed by President Clinton on November 29.
AHA Will Launch National Initiative on Medication Safety
Dick Davidson, president of the American Hospital Association (AHA), announced the initiation of a national campaign to help hospitals examine and further improve medication safety. The AHA has chosen to address medication errors because they are the most common cause of medical errors. As part of the effort, the AHA will partner with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), a nonprofit organization committed to preventing medication errors. The ISMP will help the AHA provide hospital leaders with an inventory of successful practices for reducing errors that can be adopted in every hospital. In addition to sharing successful practices, the objectives of the campaign include the following: developing a “medication safety awareness test” for use by hospitals that surveys a hospital's progress on medication error prevention; tracking implementation by the hospital and health system field of the practices for reducing and preventing errors; and developing a nonpunitive model medication error reporting process. “We are pleased to be working with AHA on this medication safety effort because it means we can more effectively partner with hospital and health system leaders who can make a real difference in patient safety,” said Michael R. Cohen, ISMP president.
Interactive Feature Added to Women's Health Information Center Web Site
The Office on Womens Health in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in conjunction with the American Heart Association, has added an interactive heart health assessment feature as part of the expanding National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC). The “For Your Heart” feature uses interactive tailoring technology to engage users in a brief conversation about their health behaviors. A tailored response is given that pertains to their specific risk factors and willingness to change behavior. At the end of the dialog, a personalized list of additional resources is provided to the visitor. After each visit, all user data are deleted and no attempt is made to track visitors. The Web site address is http://www.4woman.gov. More information can be obtained by calling the NWHIC at 800-994-WOMAN.
HHS Awards $11 Million in HIV/AIDS Care for U.S.–Mexico Border Region
Donna E. Shalala, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that the Health Resources and Services Administration will give $11 million to support four five-year demonstration projects and one evaluation center to provide innovative health care and support services for persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) living in the border region of the United States and Mexico. Four grants totaling $2 million for each of the five years—one to an organization in each of the four border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas—will be awarded in May 2000. An additional $200,000 for each of the five years will fund an evaluation center to provide technical assistance to the four demonstration projects. “We have seen a significant decline in deaths from HIV and AIDS in the past several years, but we must continue to broaden our efforts in HIV and AIDS prevention, especially in communities of color, which still suffer disproportionately from infant mortality and AIDS,” said Secretary Shalala. “This new program will go a long way toward delivering innovative HIV/AIDS care to those in the border area who need it so desperately.”