Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(6):961-962
CDC Recommends Increased Influenza Vaccination in Health Care Staff
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new recommendations designed to increase influenza vaccination coverage among health care personnel. The recommendations list strategies for making influenza vaccine more accessible to workers and to help health care facilities determine how many of their staff are not vaccinated and for what reasons, reflecting the CDC’s desire for health care facilities to be more aggressive in protecting staff and patients from influenza. Fewer than one half of health care workers receive the influenza vaccine each year, which poses a serious health risk for patients, said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. Low staff vaccination rates have been associated with outbreaks of influenza in hospitals and long-term care facilities. The new guidelines recommend that facilities offer an annual influenza vaccination to all eligible staff and students; that vaccine be offered free of charge during all shifts; that hospitals use strategies proven to improve vaccination coverage, including education, reminders, and leadership example; and that facilities ask staff who decline a vaccination for nonmedical reasons to complete a form. The recommendations also state that influenza vaccination coverage should be a measure of the quality of patient safety programs and should be used to measure health care quality in states that require public reporting of infections associated with health care. Facilities are requested to monitor influenza vaccination coverage regularly during influenza season and to provide detailed feedback to staff. The full recommendation document is available online athttp://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r060209.htm.
Health Initiative to Improve Cancer Therapy with Biomarker Evaluation
A collaboration between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) aims to improve understanding of the use of biomarkers (measurable biologic indicators of disease or therapeutic effects) in developing and evaluating cancer treatments and in matching therapies to patients. The Oncology Biomarker Qualification Initiative (OBQI) will validate specific biomarkers for assessing new technologies. Researchers will address how biomarkers can be employed to evaluate tumor response after one or two treatments, to identify patients at high risk of recurrence, and to assess the likelihood of a tumor’s response to a particular treatment. By reducing the time it takes to determine the effectiveness of a treatment, biomarkers could shorten the duration of clinical trials and make new diagnostics and treatments more quickly available to patients. The first OBQI project will validate use of positron emission technology scanning to predict tumor response in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For more information, visit the FDA Web site athttp://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2006/NEW01316.html.
Pharmaceutical Association Supports Lower Priced Drugs Act
The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), which represents U.S. pharmacy benefit managers, applauded the introduction of bipartisan legislation to increase access to clinically proven generic prescription drugs. The Lower Priced Drugs Act, introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) amd Trent Lott (R-Miss.), provides a pathway for policy makers seeking to reduce prescription drug costs, said the PCMA. The association urged policy makers to build on the legislation by enacting common-sense reforms to allow quicker access to generic drugs, which typically cost 30 to 60 percent less than their brand name equivalents. In 2006, patents will expire for at least 15 brand name drugs. For more information, visit the PCMA Web site athttp://www.pcmanet.org.
Free Health Screenings for Black Children in Low-Income Communities
The Auxiliary to the National Medical Association’s (ANMA’s) 2006 Healthy Children Lead the Way to Healthy Communities program will provide health and dental screenings and immunizations to black children aged three or four years who reside in low-income communities around the United States. The program also will hold health education workshops for the children’s parents and guardians. The ANMA is keenly aware that nearly one third of black American children live in poverty and recognizes the range of health disparities in the black community, said the national president of ANMA, Dr. Beverly J. Anderson. The program, which is supported by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS’s) Office of Minority Health as well as corporate sponsorship, will be implemented in nine cities: Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; St. Louis, Mo.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Newark, N.J.; Columbus, Ohio; Houston, Tex.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Shreveport, La. Approximately 200 children and their parents will be reached at each site. For more information, visit the ANMA Web site athttp://www.anmanet.org.
AHRQ Online Learning Resources to Help Physicians Adopt Health IT
The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) has made a variety of learning resources to help health care providers with the adoption of health information technologies (IT) available online athttp://www.healthit.ahrq.gov. By conveying lessons learned through AHRQ-funded projects and from other sources, the tools are intended to help health care providers learn from one another’s experiences and to provide easy access to the best available information. The resource center Web site initially was an internal communication tool for participants in AHRQ information technology initiative projects; the public resource is being created as a “learn-as-you-go” project to share insights as they are gleaned. As well as emerging lessons, the resource site provides a knowledge library with links to more than 5,000 health information technology resources, an implementation evaluation tool kit, a summary of key topics, and other information about health information technology activities and funding. The resource center is a part of the HHS’s health information technology efforts, which are detailed online athttp://www.hhs.gov//healthinformationtechnology.
Grants to Fund Mental Health Services for Persons with HIV/AIDS
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has announced the availability of funds for cooperative agreements to increase the provision of effective, culturally competent mental health services for persons in minority communities who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). An estimated $8.4 million will be awarded initially to fund up to 16 grants, with annual totals of $525,000 for up to five years. Applications must be received by May 1, 2006. More information and application forms can be obtained online athttp://www.grants.gov orhttp://www.samhsa.gov, or by calling 800–729–6686.
AAFP Offers ALF and NCSG Conferences for the Price of One
Two American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) conferences will be held in Kansas City, Mo., in May 2006, and the AAFP is offering registration at both conferences for the price of one. The Annual Leadership Forum (ALF), which offers physicians leadership training and updates on family medicine leadership issues and chapter resources, will be May 5–6, while the National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC), which addresses issues affecting special constituencies including minority groups, new physicians, gay and lesbian physicians, and international medical students, will be held May 4–6. Additional information and registration forms are available online athttps://www.aafp.org/leader.xml or by calling 800–274–2237 (ext. 6870 for ALF, 6800 for NCSC).