ACIP Recommends Expanded Influenza Vaccinations for Children
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended expanding routine influenza vaccination for children. Whereas the previous recommended vaccination age was from six to 23 months, the new recommendations increase the upper age to five years. The recommendations also extend to household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of these children: about 5.3 million children and 11.4 million household contacts and caregivers will be covered. The ACIP continues to recommend vaccination of all children who have certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and kidney disease. Further vaccination strategies under review include the expansion of routine influenza vaccination recommendations to the entire U.S. population. For more information, visithttp://www.cdc.gov.
HHS Stocks More Antiviral Drugs in Preparation for Influenza Pandemic
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has ordered additional antiviral drugs to be provided to states in the event of an influenza pandemic. The Strategic National Stockpile already contains 5.5 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs. Added to these will be 1.75 million treatment courses of zanamivir (Relenza) and 12.4 million treatment courses of oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Under its plan for a pandemic outbreak, the HHS must acquire enough antiviral drugs to treat one quarter of the U.S. population. The HHS also hopes the purchase will stimulate domestic production to accommodate future needs. For more information on pandemic preparedness, visithttp://www.pandemicflu.gov.
AQA Initiative to Measure and Report on Physician Practice
A pilot project being launched by the Ambulatory Care Quality Alliance (AQA) will combine public and private information to assess physician practice and provide information to purchasers of health care. The project will be implemented at six sites—in San Francisco, Calif.; Indianapolis, Ind.; Watertown, Mass.; St. Paul, Minn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Madison, Wis.—and will be funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Previously, physician performance measurement has been conducted piecemeal under various programs and using different sets of measures. The AQA pilot project will test approaches to aggregating data from various sources to provide a more comprehensive view of physician practice. It also will measure quality of care and identify high-quality providers of care, and will assess methods of providing consumers with meaningful information about physicians and physician groups. The results are expected to serve as a national framework for performance measurement and public reporting. For more information, call AHRQ Public Affairs at (301) 427–1855, or visit the AHRQ online athttp://www.ahrq.gov/news/vnewsix.htm.
More Than 25 Million Medicare Beneficiaries Have Drug Coverage
There now are more than 25 million Medicare beneficiaries with prescription drug coverage, according to the HHS—close to the goal of 30 million enrollees in the first year. From December 2005 through February 2006, 5.3 million individual beneficiaries signed up for drug coverage. Most new enrollees chose plans other than the standard benefit, with many opting for low deductibles; fixed copays for prescriptions rather than coinsurance; and coverage in the “donut hole,” where beneficiaries are responsible for 100 percent of costs. New enrollees in the more extensive Medicare Advantage health plans exceed 500,000. The CMS still urges beneficiaries to sign up for drug coverage at least two to three weeks before they plan to use it. Signing up early in the month makes it more likely that patients will get their prescriptions filled quickly. Enrollment is open until May 15, 2006. For more information and specific enrollment figures, visithttp://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2006pres/20060222.html. A fact sheet produced by the CMS for patients is available on the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Web site athttps://www.aafp.org/x42523.xml.
Campaigns Target Obesity and Diabetes in Children and U.S. Veterans
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is funding a new program launched by the American Heart Association and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to prevent childhood obesity. In the 2006–7 school year, the Healthy Schools Program will be implemented in 285 schools in 13 states, providing technical assistance and financial support to improve the nutritional value of cafeteria food and vending machine products, increase students’ physical activity, and create staff wellness programs. The alliance’s Web site (http://www.healthiergeneration.org) also has tips and resources for parents and children.
A campaign to combat obesity and diabetes among veterans and their families, Healthier US Veterans, was launched by the HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The rate of diabetes in U.S. veterans is almost three times that of the general population. Through VA medical centers, the new campaign will provide education about healthy eating and physical activity and will offer tailored weight-loss programs, pedometers, and diet advice. For more information, visithttp://www.hhs.gov/news orhttps://www.aafp.org/x42554.xml.
Surgeon General Urges U.S. Spanish-Speakers to Know Family History
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., called on Spanish-speaking Americans to know their family history and announced the availability of a free online tool to help families gather their health information. “My Family Health Portrait” takes data about family health history including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, and creates a graphic printout that patients can give their physicians. The Spanish-language version of the tool is now available online athttps://familyhistory.hhs.gov/spanish. For more information, visithttp://www.nih.gov/news/pr/feb2006/nhgri-28.htm.
Signs That Work Initiative Creates Universal Health Care Symbols
Signs That Work, a branch of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative Hablamos Juntos (“we speak together”), has created 28 universal health care symbols to help patients and visitors feel more comfortable in navigating health care facilities. The symbols are in the public domain and may be downloaded without charge from the Hablamos Juntos Web site (http://www.hablamosjuntos.org/signage/default.index.asp). Available symbols include those for Ambulance Entrance, Pharmacy, Care Staff Area, Interpreter Services, Registration, Emergency, Family Practice, and Waiting Areas. The symbols were tested on 300 multilingual persons from four language groups and were placed in four hospitals. More than 75 percent of testers found the symbols more helpful than text. For more information about this initiative and other Hablamos Juntos projects, visithttp://www.hablamosjuntos.org.
Registration Open for 2006 AAFP Scientific Assembly in D.C.
The 2006 AAFP Scientific Assembly will be held September 27 to October 1 in Washington, D.C. This is the first year that all regular continuing medical education courses will be included in a single registration fee (Clinical Procedures workshops and Self-Assessment Module Prep sessions are not included). Preregistration closes August 23, but a reduced fee is being offered for those who register by April 26. Online registration and additional information are available on the AAFP Web site athttps://www.aafp.org/x15315.xml.