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Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(1):8

During the past 55 years, the AFP Newsletter has covered a full range of issues relevant to medicine. As with all news, some of those issues have come and gone over the years, while others have remained critical to physicians. This issue of Inside AFP gives a brief overview of some of the issues that have been covered in Newsletter during the past 35 years. In the December 15, 2006, issue of AFP, this column discussed the history of the Newsletter department from 1950 to 1970.

The lead item in January 1971 was President Richard Nixon's “pocket veto” of a bill to establish a nationwide, $225 million family practice training program. Among those questioning the President's authority to do so was Sen. Sam Ervin, Jr., who would later chair the 1973 Watergate hearings.

In the fall of 1976, the “yellow sheet” reported on a call for Medicaid reform by the nation's governors, who said the program was “bankrupting the states and their localities.” Meanwhile, the Democratic Party's platform called for national compulsory health insurance. Congress granted legal indemnification to four firms designated as swine flu vaccine manufacturers but added a “no-profit” clause to prevent profiteering. And the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws banning the advertisement of prescription drug prices and requiring spousal consent for abortions.

The 1975 U.S. Census Bureau data showed that the U.S. death rate hit a record low (8.9 per 1,000 persons), with declines in all 15 top causes of death except cancer, murder, and suicide (AFP, September 1976). President-elect Jimmy Carter's rumored plans included separating Education from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and getting consumer advice from Ralph Nader. Although no outbreaks were noted by December, the swine flu vaccination program was declared “less than a resounding success,” and many states simply showed no interest. That same year, a Gallup poll showed that physicians were still on top when citizens were asked to rate honesty and ethical standards among people in different professional fields.

In the 1986 issues of AFP, the Newsletter regularly featured news related to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Topics included a Justice Department ruling that AIDS victims could not be fired due to the disease's effects but could be fired based on a fear of contagion, and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule establishing Haitians as a high-risk group for AIDS.

Statistics from the previous year showed that total health care spending in the United States was up by 8.9 percent, the lowest rate of increase in 20 years, and that spending for physician services was up by 9.9 percent, the lowest increase in 10 years. A House subcommittee evaluated new Reagan administration regulations on genetic engineering research, and a 0.5 percent rise in Medicare hospital payments was proposed. Congress also debated a ban on advertisement of tobacco products and pondered $550 million in Medicaid cuts to hospitals, physicians, and other providers.

Just 10 years ago, in the fall of 1996, Newsletter reported on President Bill Clinton's approval of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration initiative to keep tobacco out of the hands of minors, and his formation of the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. The number of American workers and their families covered by employer-sponsored health care dropped from 77.7 percent to 73.9 percent between 1990 and 1995. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced plans for a national telemedicine initiative. Also that year, a record 17,701 persons attended the AAFP Scientific Assembly in New Orleans.

In 2000, AFP and the Newsletter celebrated 50 years of publication. By then, Web sites and e-mail addresses were regular features in the department. News items included a national summit on medical errors, electronic tools to reduce prescribing errors and improve oncologic care, and an AAFP warning about violent video games. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality announced that Americans had spent $554 billion for medical care and supplies in 1996.

Since 2000, AFP has been published 24 times a year, allowing Newsletter to update readers twice every month. The “yellow sheet” continues building on a long history, while staying current with the times and keeping readers up-to-date.

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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