Family Physicians Urge Congress to Fund Training Programs
More than 50 family physicians visited senators and representatives on Capitol Hill in late May urging support for family medicine training programs under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. They emphasized that the Administration’s proposed budget, which would eliminate all federal funding for the programs, could result in a decline in the number of medical students pursuing careers in family medicine. The receipt of federal family medicine funds by a medical school significantly affects whether medical students ultimately practice in family medicine and whether they practice in underserved rural or urban settings. This finding by the American Academy of Family Physician’s Robert Graham Center: Policy Studies in Family Practice and Primary Care was announced at a press briefing, also held on Capitol Hill. According to the center’s report, elimination of the Title VII funding will mean fewer medical students entering family medicine. The importance of family physicians to the health care system was emphasized by the finding that more than one third of all 3,078 counties in the United States depend on family physicians to avoid designation as primary care health professions shortage areas. Furthermore, if family physicians were removed from the health care system, another 1,184 counties would immediately qualify as shortage areas.
AAFP Member Selected for National Veterans Affairs Task Force
American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) member Dale J. Block, M.D., St. Louis Park, Minn., has been selected by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi to serve on a blue-ribbon task force that will review the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ handling of applications for veterans’ benefits. The 11-person Claims Processing Task Force, which began meeting in May, will examine a wide range of issues affecting veteran benefit applications for disability pay, pensions and survivor benefits, which are currently available to 3.8 million people. Dr. Block is currently the president of Block Medical Counseling, P.C.
NMHA Launches Campaign for Children’s Mental Health
The National Mental Health Association (NMHA) recently launched a new public awareness campaign to improve public understanding of children’s mental health disorders, facilitate access to mental health care and help children with mental health disorders receive adequate mental health treatment. The educational initiative, “Children’s Mental Health Matters,” will help parents, teachers and physicians improve care for these children through community action coalitions, mental health screenings and public education forums. The first step will be to reduce the stigma associated with these disorders by educating the community that children’s mental health disorders are real, common and treatable. Children’s Mental Health Matters is supported by a coalition of partners from government, nonprofit and corporate sectors. On January 3, the Office of the Surgeon General released a National Agenda for Children’s Mental Health, which outlined goals and strategies for improving health care services for children and adolescents with mental health problems and their families. The principles of the agenda include: promoting the recognition of mental health as an essential part of child health; integrating family, child and youth-centered mental health services into all systems that serve children and youth; engaging families and incorporating the perspectives of children and youth in the development of all mental health care planning; and developing and enhancing a public-private health infrastructure to support these efforts. For more information on children’s mental health, visit the NMHA Web site athttp://www.nmha.org. The Surgeon General’s Action Agenda can be found athttp://www.surgeongeneral.gov/cmh/childreport.htm.
Uniform Set of Diabetes Outcome Measures Is Released
A consensus document by the American Medical Association (AMA), the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) establishes a single standard for evaluating the management of diabetes in adults in multiple settings. The document coordinates measurement sets used by physicians, health care plans, hospitals and other health care organizations. The diabetes care measures will be tested in a demonstration project designed with the Maine Medical Assessment Foundation (MMAF). The three health groups plan to release similar performance measures for evaluating cardiovascular disease care, neonatal care and pregnancy outcomes. “The diabetes measures are the first in what we expect to be a series of collaborative measurement sets on clinically important topics. We also see this model as an excellent example of the evidence-based approach advocated by the National Quality Forum,” said AMA Executive Vice President E. Ratcliffe Anderson, Jr., M.D. Former AAFP President Neil Brooks, M.D., Vernon, Conn., represented the AAFP on the physician consortium that developed the measures. A copy of the diabetes measures, titled “Coordinated Performance Measurement for the Management of Adult Diabetes,” can be viewed athttp://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/3798.html.
NIAID Announces Plan to Battle Leading Killer Diseases
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently introduced a global plan to combat three leading infectious killers: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), malaria and tuberculosis. The NIAID plan focuses on four key research areas: vaccine and prevention studies, drug development, diagnostics and enhancements to research and treatment facilities within endemic areas. Vaccine research will be the top priority and, although a vaccine currently exists for tuberculosis, it does not prevent the adult lung disease that affects much of the world’s population. Drug development will concentrate on new drugs to combat drug-resistant microbe strains for each disease and on reducing the toxic side effects of many existing medications, particularly those used to treat HIV infection. Improved diagnostics will ensure more rapid and accurate identification of disease. A copy of the “NIAID Global Health Research Plan for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis” can be found online athttp://www.niaid.nih.gov/publications/globalhealth/global.pdf.