FDA, CDC Respond to Increasing Threat of SARS
In response to the increasing number of cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have increased their recommendations of precautionary methods. Although it is currently unknown whether SARS is transmissible via blood, the FDA has issued guidance on further safeguarding the nation's blood supply against SARS until more information on the disease is obtained. The FDA recommends that anyone who has traveled to a high-risk area for SARS, even asymptomatic persons, should refrain from donating blood for 14 days after returning from those areas. Persons who have contracted SARS should not donate blood until 28 days after their symptoms resolve and their treatment is completed. The complete FDA guidance is available online atwww.fda.gov/bbs/topics/answers/2003/ans01215.html. The CDC has established several Web sites with information about SARS, includingwww.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars. The current travel recommendations from the CDC are available atwww.cdc.gov/ncidod/sars/travel_advice.htm. These recommendations include avoidance of settings where SARS is most likely to be transmitted. They also recommend that travelers to high-risk areas monitor their health while there and for 10 days after leaving these areas. The current case count for the United States can be found online atwww.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/sars.htm, and the current count for cases outside the United States can be found on the World Health Organization's Web site atwww.who.int/csr/sars/en.
HHS Releases HIPAA-Related Documents on Patient Privacy Standards
The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Office for Civil Rights recently released documents concerning patient rights pertaining to the privacy of personal health information standards mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). “Protecting the Privacy of Patients' Health Information” is a four-page general fact sheet describing patients' rights and the responsibilities of health plans, physicians, and other covered entities. The fact sheet, “How to File a Health Information Privacy Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights,” and downloadable complaint forms also are available. There also is a 20-page summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and frequently asked questions on health information privacy. Also included is an interim final rule on establishing procedural guidelines for imposing civil monetary penalties on entities that violate standards adopted under HIPAA's administrative simplification provisions that was updated April 15, 2003. The fact sheets and other information can be obtained online atwww.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa.
New Research Journal, Annals of Family Medicine, to Debut This Month
The first issue of Annals of Family Medicine, a new family practice research journal, will launch on May 30. The journal will publish peer-reviewed research to support the field of generalist health care. Topics in the first issue include original research articles on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, prostate cancer screening, and the treatment of comorbidities. Annals is a collaborative effort of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Board of Family Practice, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, the Association of Departments of Family Medicine, the Association of Family Practice Residency Directors, and the North American Primary Care Research Group. The managing editor of the journal is Claire Zimmerman, Seattle, and the editor of the journal is Kurt Stange, M.D., Ph.D., Cleveland. The initial issue will be sent to AAFP active members, second- and third-year family practice residents, and members of the other sponsoring organizations. Recipients can return a postcard from that issue to request a free one-year subscription. The articles also will appear online free of charge on the Annals' Web site atwww.annfammed.org.
HHS Announces $15 Million Health Initiative Focused on Prevention
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has announced the “Steps to a HealthierUS: Putting Prevention First,” health initiative that stresses the importance of prevention and promising approaches for promoting healthy environments. The initiative will focus on reducing the major health burden created by obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. The program will be based on personal responsibility for the health choices of Americans and social responsibility to ensure that policy makers support programs that foster healthy behaviors and prevent disease. A total of $15 million of funding will support innovative and effective community-based chronic disease prevention and control programs. These new programs will concentrate on high-risk populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, youth, and people with disabilities. The HHS also released a “Prevention Portfolio” that includes three publications designed to guide community leaders, policy makers, and health officials in making their communities healthier. The three titles are, “The Power of Prevention,” “Prevention Strategies That Work,” and “Prevention Programs in Action.” These publications and additional information on the Steps to a HealthierUS initiative are available online atwww.HealthierUS.gov/steps.
Tar Wars Conference Provides Tobacco Prevention Education and Materials
The Tar Wars Coordinator Leadership Conference, being held July 12–14, 2003, in Alexandria, Va., will provide education in implementing and coordinating a successful tobacco prevention program. Educational sessions will cover topics on program management, grant writing, evaluation, and strategic planning. The conference is open to all state or regional Tar Wars coordinators; family practice physicians, residents, and medical students; school nurses; health education professionals; and others involved in coordinating tobacco control programs at the local, state, or national level. Physicians attending the conference are eligible for continuing medical education (CME) credit. For more information on the conference or to register, go online towww.tarwars.org/x824.xml.