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Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(8):1673-1674

HHS Report Shows U.S. Life Expectancy Reached New High of 77.2 Years

According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), life expectancy for Americans hit an all-time high of 77.2 years in 2001, and age-adjusted deaths hit an all-time low of 855 deaths per 100,000 persons. Life expectancy increased for men and women as well as blacks and whites. The life expectancy for men increased from 74.3 years in 2000 to 74.4 years in 2001 and increased for women from 79.7 years to 79.8 years. The report, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2001,” included a new subcategory for homicide: deaths from terrorism. The overall U.S. homicide rate increased nearly 17 percent between 2000 and 2001, but the report stated that this was related entirely to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Declines were noted in mortality from leading causes of death, including influenza/pneumonia (more than 7 percent decrease), heart disease (nearly 4 percent decrease), cancer (2 percent decrease), stroke (nearly 5 percent decrease), and accidents/unintentional injuries (nearly 2 percent). Increases in mortality from leading causes of death included kidney disease (3.7 percent increase), hypertension (3 percent increase), and Alzheimer's disease (5 percent increase). The statistics in the report were based on data recorded from more than 97 percent of state death certificates issued in 2001 in the United States. The full report is available on the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics Web site

Health-Related Issues Receive Emphasis in Senate's Agenda for 2003

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) recently released the Senate GOP leaders' top 10 legislative priorities for 2003, which included five health-related items, according to an article in Medicine and Health. Health-related bills in the top 10 included the following: creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit, which is the first priority; banning a form of late-term abortion, also called partial-birth abortion, except in cases where the woman would die without the procedure; enacting a federal law on medical-malpractice liability to control the cost of malpractice insurance; increasing funding to combat the global acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic; and enhancing preparedness for bioterrorism through vaccine production and other measures. Nonhealth-related bills in the top 10 include President Bush's tax relief package; authorization of increased federal spending for education; welfare reform; eliminating the estate tax; and enhancing the U.S. energy supplies. Frist is the only practicing physician in the Senate.

President Bush Approves $7 Billion Budget for HRSA

President Bush recently approved a $6.98 billion fiscal year 2003 budget for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an increase of $589 million from fiscal year 2002. The additional funds will be used primarily in the following areas: $267 million for antibioterrorism activities ($542 million total); $159 million for primary health care ($1.64 billion total), $137 million of which will be directed to the ongoing presidential initiative to expand the health center network; $72 million for the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS Bureau (more than $2 billion total); and $64 million for the Bureau of Health Professions programs ($882 million total). Budgets for other departments include $985 million for maternal and child health programs, $156 million for rural health programs, and $357 million for special programs including organ transplantation, bone marrow donor registry, and state planning grant program.

Bilingual Helpline Created to Connect Hispanic Families with Health Services

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the creation of the “Su Familia” National Hispanic Family Health Helpline, 866-SU-FAMILIA (866-783-2645), to provide Hispanic families with basic health information on how to prevent and manage chronic conditions, and refer them to local health care professionals and federally supported programs including the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The toll-free helpline is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern standard time. Bilingual information specialists will refer callers to one of over 16,000 local health care professionals, including community and migrant centers, by using the caller's zip code. Callers can request basic health care information, referrals to information sources, or bilingual fact sheets on topics such as asthma, cancer screening, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, child and adult immunizations, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS. “Su Familia” is supported by HHS' HRSA and HHS' Office of Minority Health and is operated by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

Nutrition Screening Initiative Leader Testifies at Senate Committee on Healthy Aging

Jane White, Ph.D., a dietitian and advisor to the Nutrition Screening Initiative (NSI), recently testified on nutrition screening and intervention in older adults with chronic disease at the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Hearing, Fitness, and Nutrition: The Prescription for Healthy Aging. “Nutrition plays a critical role in maintaining the health and vitality of adults as they age,” White said. “We must ensure that physicians and consumers have the tools they need to effectively manage chronic disease.” The NSI is a broad, multidisciplinary effort led by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Dietetic Association and a diverse coalition of more than 25 national health, aging, and medical organizations. The goal of the NSI is to promote nutrition screening and intervention into the health care of older adults. NSI has formed alliances with professionals in nutrition, dentistry, pharmacology, mental health, managed care, home care, and community social services. For more information on the NSI, go online

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