HHS Releases National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a draft of its Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness Plan. The plan provides guidance to national, state, and local policy makers, and health departments for public health preparation and response in the event of pandemic influenza outbreak. Even though the occurrence is rare, a pandemic virus likely will be unaffected by available influenza vaccines that are modified each year to match the strains of the virus that are known to be in circulation. Unlike the gradual changes that occur in the viruses during influenza season, a pandemic virus represents a major, sudden shift in the structure of the virus that increases its ability to cause illness in a much larger proportion of the population. The core plan describes coordination and decision making at the national level, provides an overview of key issues, and outlines action steps to be taken. Annexes to the plan provide additional information to health departments and private sector organizations for use in developing local preparedness plans. The draft is available online at http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/pandemicplan. Public comments on the draft will be accepted through October 26.
DEA and Other Experts Release Guide for Treating Patients in Pain
In August, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and a panel of national pain experts issued a report answering questions about treating patients in pain and addressing problems associated with the diversion and abuse of prescription pain medications. The document is titled, “Prescription Pain Medication: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals, and Law Enforcement Personnel.” It provides primary care physicians and law enforcement offices with references and Internet resources on risk assessment for abusing medications, how opioid treatment works, patient behavior, abuse, addiction, rules and laws, and clear descriptions of how and why the DEA may prosecute a physician. The report is available online at http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/faq/.
HHS and USDA Have Updated Dietary Guidelines
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and HHS accepted public comments on the “Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005 to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture,” through September. The departments should be releasing the final document, “2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” early next year. These guidelines are reviewed, updated, and released by HHS and USDA every five years, and contain the latest nutritional and dietary guidance for the general public. An electronic copy of the preliminary report is available online at http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines.
HRSA Reports HIV/AIDS Programs Are Slowing Spread of Disease
In its biennial progress report at the 2004 Ryan White CARE Act Grantee Conference in August, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the HHS indicated that federal efforts are slowing the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and helping patients with the disease live longer. According to the report, more than two thirds of CARE Act funds were used for primary care and treatment in 2002; almost one third of the recipients were 45 years or older; about 46 percent of recipients were black and about 20 percent were Hispanic; more than 31 percent of HIV-positive recipients were female; and 2 percent of recipients were children 12 years or younger. HRSA, through its HIV/AIDS Bureau, administers the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act. It funds more than 2,700 providers across the country who care for more than one-half million poor, uninsured, or underserved Americans living with HIV/AIDS. More information is available online at http://newsroom.hrsa.gov/releases/HHS-NEWS-August23-2004.htm.
COGME Releases Report on Physician Workforce Guidelines
In July, the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) issued its report, “Physician Workforce Policy Guidelines for the U.S. for 2000–2020.” According to this report, the United States needs 24,000 to 27,000 new physicians per year through 2020 to avoid a significant shortage of physicians over the next 15 years. It also states that specialty distribution of those new physicians should be decided by marketplace not policy goals. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) believes that this goes against evidence encouraging primary care education. The AAFP will be presenting an evidence-based study to the Congress of Delegates in October at their annual scientific assembly, describing the current family physicians workforce and projecting further supply, based on recent trends. Daniel Spogen, M.D., chair of the AAFP Commission on Education, stated that allowing marketplace demands to dictate the distribution of specialties may not improve the quality of or access to the most appropriate medical care. More information is available at https://www.aafp.org/x28808.xml.
NIH Offers $35,000 in Annual Student Loan Repayment
On September 1, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started accepting applications to its five Loan Repayment Programs. December 15, 2004 is the deadline for applications. The NIH repays up to $35,000 of qualified educational debt for health care professionals pursuing careers in clinical, pediatric, contraception and fertility, or health disparities research. The programs also provide coverage for federal and state tax liabilities. Participants must have a doctoral-level degree, devote 50 percent or more of their time to research funded by a nonprofit organization or government entity (e.g., federal, state, or local), and have educational loan debt equal to or exceeding 20 percent of their institutional base salary. U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or U.S. nationals may apply. Details and the online application are available at http://www.lrp.nih.gov. For the NIH news release, go to http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/aug2004/od-30.htm.