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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(9):1953-1954

AAFP Urges Response to Violent Video Games

At the Congress of Delegates meeting in September in Dallas, the AAFP encouraged its members to tell parents about the voluntary rating system for video and computer games. The decision to take an active stance on this issue arose in response to studies that show exposure to violent video games may increase aggressive behavior and hostility. The congress also backed efforts to increase the label size of the rating notice on video and computer games; ask retailers to enforce the voluntary rating system that prohibits minors from purchasing, renting or downloading games rated “mature”; and ask parents to monitor the purchase, use and rental of video games by their children. For more information on the ratings for video, computer and Internet games, visit the Parental Media Guide's Web site at More news from the Congress of Delegates meeting can be found at

New Grants to Help Enroll Rural Children in SCHIP, Medicaid

The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration recently awarded 20 grants totaling more than $334,000 to State Offices of Rural Health to help them bring health insurance coverage to rural children by enrolling them in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and Medicaid. Although about 2.5 million children have been enrolled in SCHIP in recent years, rural children are 25 to 50 percent more likely than urban children to be uninsured. More than 3 million children in rural areas lack health insurance; slightly more than one half of them are believed to be eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP. According to HHS, many low-income families with working parents do not know that their children are eligible to enroll in the two programs. It is hoped that rural outreach will emphasize one-on-one contacts and follow-ups to help people understand and complete the application process.

AAFP Announces New Staff Members at Policy Center

The new policy center of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) in Washington, D.C., is now fully staffed. Robert Phillips, M.D., M.S.P.H., joined the staff as assistant director in midsummer. Dr. Phillips was the policy center's intern last year, and he will now direct the internship program. Dr. Phillips will continue to practice family medicine part-time. The inaugural “Scholar in Residence” will be filled by Robert Graham, M.D. Dr. Graham is the outgoing executive vice president of the AAFP. As scholar in residence, he will implement the sabbatical program.

The policy center, recently renamed the Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Practice and Primary Care, is headed by Larry A. Green, M.D. The center is located at 2023 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. The telephone number is 202-986-5708; e-mail:

Lupus Research Group Sets 10-Year Goal to Find Cure

The Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) has announced the development of a strategic plan to find the prevention, treatment and cure for lupus in the next 10 years. The plan will be based on an assessment of the current state of the field and identification of areas on which to target research. The ALR was started with a $12 million donation provided by New York Jets owner Robert Wood Johnson IV. The philosophy of the ALR is to combine the best of science and business. As Ralph Snyderman, M.D., chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the ALR explains, “We are looking for a return on our investment from our researchers in a much quicker time frame than is standard in the research community today. We hope to be able to focus our support only on those projects that show the greatest chance of success in a shorter period of time.” In December, the ALR will announce the recipients of its first round of two-year $500,000 grants. For more information, visit the ALR's Web site at or telephone 800-867-1743.

Hospitals Challenged to Take Action on Patient Safety

The health care industry should make patient safety a board-level priority and adopt full disclosure policies, said Gordon Sprenger, the former president of the American Hospital Association. His comments were made at the National Patient Safety Symposium in Dallas recently. Several suggestions for improving safety came out of the conference, including:

  • Educational sessions and materials designed to promote an understanding of how systems can be changed to reduce the potential for harm.

  • A full disclosure policy to guide, support and direct staff who interact with patients and families following medical accidents.

  • A blameless reporting system designed to encourage staff to report “near misses.”

  • Review and implementation of appropriate “best practices” that have been identified through the available research.

  • Regular reports to chief executives and boards of directors.

Additional information on the symposium is available at

AHRQ Releases Data on Health Care Costs

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ; formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research) has new information on the cost of health care. According to AHRQ, Americans paid about $554 billion for medical care and supplies in 1996. These figures are only for the general public; excluded are persons in the military or living in institutions. The average cost per person who had medical expenses was about $2,400. Of these persons, one half had expenses of less than $559. Only 6.8 percent of the population had expenses for inpatient hospital stays and 2.4 percent had expenses for home health services. The reports, titled “Distribution of Health Care Expenses, 1996” and “Per Capita Health Care Expenses, 1996,” can be obtained by calling the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse at 800-358-9295, or by visiting the AHRQ Web site at

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