CDC Reports Current Influenza Season Could Be More Severe Than Usual
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Julie Gerberding, M.D., the 2003–2004 influenza season in the United States could be more severe than in the previous three years, because of an earlier onset to the influenza season than in recent years, higher levels of widespread influenza infection in some areas of the country, and the presence of a strain of the influenza virus that is slightly different from the strain in the vaccine. Gerberding emphasized that there is plenty of the influenza vaccine available and encouraged persons, especially those at high risk of serious complications from influenza, to get their influenza vaccine as soon as possible. She added that animal studies have suggested that the current vaccine will still confer cross-protection against the errant strain. For more information about the current influenza season and the CDC’s National Immunization Program, go online tohttp://www.cdc.gov/nip/flu.
AAFP Partners with Nine Companies to Provide Affordable EHR Systems
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has partnered with nine leading information technology companies to offer electronic health records (EHR) hardware and software at discounted prices (15 to 50 percent depending on the product) for AAFP members in small- or medium-sized medical practices. EHR systems allow physicians and staff members to view, chart, and interact with patients’ health information in a timely and accurate manner via computer, Internet, and personal data assistant devices. Participants in “Partners for Patients” include A4 Health Systems, GE Medical Systems Information Technologies, Hewlett-Packard, MedPlexus, Inc., MedPlus, Inc., NextGen Healthcare Information Systems, Inc., Physician Micro Systems, Inc., Siemens Medical Solutions Health Services Corp., and Welch Allyn, Inc. Each company pledges to uphold the AAFP‘s four guiding principles: affordability, compatibility, interoperability, and data stewardship. For more information on this initiative or to access the partner organizations’ Web sites for product and pricing information, go tohttps://www.aafp.org/x24906.xml. The AAFP is heading a movement to make EHRs the standard method of medical record systems communication by working with health care technology companies to create a breakthrough in the adoption of EHRs in family physicians’ offices.
Annual Report Shows Continued Improvement in Overall Health in the United States
According to results of the 2003 edition of the annual report “America’s Health: State Health Rankings,” the United States’ overall healthiness improved by 1.4 percent since 2002 and 16.9 percent since 1990. The report, which is produced by the United Health Foundation in conjunction with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention, ranked Minnesota and New Hampshire as the healthiest states in the country, followed by Utah, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The five least healthy states were Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The rankings are based on a comprehensive, multidimensional, yearly analysis of the relative healthiness of the American population using information supplied by sources including the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor, and the National Safety Council. The report incorporates measures that reflect the decisions made by persons who affect public health; the social environment that affects the health of persons and families; and the policy decisions made by public officials who determine the availability of public health and medical care resources. Reasons for the increase in health status listed in the report include a 36 percent decline in deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes, a 34 percent decrease in infectious disease, a 32 percent decline in infant mortality, and a 24 percent decrease in the prevalence of smoking. The complete report can be read online athttp://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.
IOM Releases Clinical Research Directions for Testosterone Therapy
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released “Testosterone and Aging: Clinical Research Directions,” which assesses the current knowledge concerning the benefits and adverse health effects of testosterone therapy in older men and provides recommendations regarding future clinical trials of this therapy. These recommendations maintain that future clinical research in this area should focus on the population most likely to benefit; use testosterone as a therapeutic intervention, not as a preventive measure; establish clear benefits before assessing long-term risks; and ensure the safety of the research participants. Testosterone has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating a limited number of conditions, particularly male hypogonadism. Most studies of testosterone therapy have been in younger hypogonadal men, and less is known about the potential benefits and side effects of testosterone therapy in older men. The full report can be read online athttp://www.iom.edu/report.asp?id=16398.
Family Physician Elected Governor of Kentucky
Family physician and U.S. Rep. Ernest Fletcher, M.D., (R-Ky.) Lexington, was elected governor of Kentucky in November. Before entering politics, Fletcher worked as a family physician for 12 years. He is the second family physician to be a governor (Otis R. Bowen, M.D., Bremen, Ind., was governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1980) and one of 17 family physicians currently holding state or federal public office. Fletcher discussed many health issues during his campaign, including the need for comprehensive medical malpractice reform and ensuring affordable, accessible health care for all citizens of Kentucky. “I will do everything I can to reduce health care premiums for Kentuckians, address the number of uninsured, increase access and competition, ensure affordable prescription drugs for our seniors, improve Medicaid, and ensure that we are addressing children’s health issues,” Fletcher said.