CDC Declares 6 “Winnable Battles” in Health Care
Health care—associated infections, HIV/AIDS, auto injuries, obesity and nutrition, teen pregnancy, and smoking: these public health issues have been declared “winnable battles” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, and other CDC leaders identified the 6 priorities based on their impact on public health and the extent to which CDC intervention can make “significant progress.” The new campaign supports related federal initiatives, such as the government’s Healthy People 2010 objectives and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” project.
Some in the health care field question the CDC’s choice to isolate and prioritize a handful of issues at the expense of other, equally important public health challenges. CDC officials maintain, however, that they have no plans to abandon other health missions.
According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), much of the agency’s funding is already earmarked by Congress to be used only for certain causes. One estimate suggests that less than one tenth of 1% of the CDC’s budget of $6.6 billion is discretionary money, the AP report noted.
However funding is allocated, the CDC hopes clear targets will sharpen the agency’s focus and generate public support for the 6 priorities. “By identifying priority strategies and clear targets and by working closely with our public health partners”, the CDC wrote in a press release, “we can make significant progress in reducing health disparities and the overall health burden from these diseases and conditions.”
Physician Shortage Will be Worse than Expected
Most are already aware of the shortage of physicians that will result from the health care reform law, but exactly how severe will the shortage be? The Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Center for Workforce Studies released new estimates that suggest the shortage will be 50% worse in 2015 than anticipated.
The center’s previous estimates projected a shortage of 39,600 physicians, but the new release states that by 2015 the nation will be short 63,000 physicians, including primary care physicians and specialists. The shortage will continue to worsen through 2025, according to the report.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will provide insurance coverage for an additional 32 million Americans. Nearly one third of all physicians are expected to retire in the next decade, and the census predicts a 36% growth in the number of Americans aged 65 years and older. This fundamental demographic shift translates to an increase in the number of Medicare recipients, which could overburden the already strained health care system.
Although the number of medical students continues to increase, residency training openings remain limited. “Unless Congress supports at least a 15% increase in residency training slots (adding another 4000 physicians a year to the pipeline), access to health care will be out of reach for many Americans,” the AAMC stated.
Drug Take-Back Day Collects 121 Tons of Unused Medicines
The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, held September 25, 2010, successfully collected more than 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs for safe disposal, the DEA announced in October.
“The Take-Back Campaign was a stunning nationwide success that cleaned out more than 121 tons of pills from America’s medicine cabinets, a crucial step toward reducing the epidemic of prescription drug abuse that is plaguing this nation,” said Michele M. Leonhart, DEA Acting Administrator.
The event allowed patients to drop off unwanted or unused drugs free of charge and anonymously at more than 4000 locations. In addition to preventing prescription drugs from falling into the wrong hands, the program educated citizens about the dangers of drug abuse and the importance of disposing of leftover medicines safely and effectively.
Although it is currently illegal to turn over unused prescriptions to anyone other than law enforcement, Congress recently passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. The new legislation will create a framework for a permanent solution for drug disposal. Until the law is fully implemented, the DEA will continue to coordinate 1-day take-back programs.