A new bill to ensure a continuous supply of highly trained preventive medicine and public health experts is introduced in the US Congress. This is crucial for the future of community health.
A new bill has been introduced in the US Congress in an attempt to stem the continuing erosion of preventive medicine and public health workforce.
The landmark bill, called the Preventive Medicine and Public Health Training Act, will ensure the nation has a continuous supply of highly trained preventive medicine and public health physicians.
It will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the necessary funds to train highly specialized public health physicians in the skills necessary to lead pandemic flu planning, bio-terrorism surveillance, chronic disease prevention, quality improvement and safety in the health care system, and health promotion at both the patient and population levels, it has been stated.
This is an especially critical measure as baby boomers approach retirement in greater numbers than ever before, obesity plagues young and old alike, emerging and re-emerging infections become harder to treat, and Americans face imminent threats to their health and well-being.
A baby boomer is someone who was born during a period of increased birth rates, or baby boom, and the term is particularly applied to those born during the post-World War II period of increased birth rates. In the United Statest the term is commonly applied to people with birth years after World War II (WW II) and before the Vietnam War, thus possibly comprising more than one generation.
Baby boomers presently make up the lion's share of the political, cultural, industrial, and academic leadership class in the United States. And it is this segment that is aging, posing serious questions over the future of the country..
"Preventive medicine physicians - the only U.S. physicians trained in both clinical medicine and public health - are uniquely equipped to address the health needs of individuals and populations alike," said Dr. Michael Parkinson, president of the American College of Preventive Medicine. "We applaud this bi-partisan group of health care leaders for their foresight in protecting the nation's health."
Preventive medicine's mission is to protect, promote, and maintain health and well-being while preventing disease, disability, and premature death. This is becoming increasingly more difficult as the number of preventive medicine physicians decreases.
"Preventive medicine physicians represent an underutilized and increasingly threatened resource to meet the nation's health and health care needs," said Dr. Parkinson.
In 1998, there were 90 preventive medicine training programs in the U.S. training 420 physicians. Today, there are only 76 programs training an all time low of 364 physicians.
At the same time as this decrease, the Health Resources and Services Administration estimates that between the years 2000 and 2010 the demand for public health professionals will grow at twice the rate of all other occupations in the U.S.
"This decrease in the number of preventive medicine physicians represents a perfect storm of an aging public health workforce, decreased funds for training, fewer training programs, and fewer medical residents choosing to specialize in preventive medicine," said Dr. Parkinson.
"Inadequate funding means that many who choose this specialty must dig into their own pockets to receive the specialty training the federal government assures at no cost to all other medical residents," he said. "The current system has built-in disincentives to dedicating one's career to public health. This bill will change that."
In general the US healthcare has been criticized as expensive, ineffective and inequitable.