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First review in for embattled federal prevention fund

The Dept. of Health and Human Services spent nearly $1.3 billion in two years on prevention and public health initiatives from an account controlled by the HHS secretary. The Government Accountability Office issued a report on spending from the HHS prevention and public health fund following the enactment of the 2010 health system reform law that authorized the fund. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) and Tom Coburn, MD (R, Okla.), had requested the analysis. Republicans have characterized the expenditures as waste that the government can’t afford to spend, and they regularly refer to the account as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ “slush fund.” The Affordable Care Act authorized $5 billion to be distributed by the secretary between 2010 and 2014. An additional $2 billion would be made available each year thereafter, but Congress voted in February to reduce total funding by $6.3 billion over 10 years to offset part of a legislative package that included a 10-month delay to the M ...

Pediatricians target talks with parents to curb teen gun deaths

Physicians can play a crucial role in helping to decrease the risk of gun-related injuries and deaths among children and adolescents, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Gun-related deaths among youths ages 15 to 19 have declined from a peak of 27.8 per 100,000 in 1994 to 11.4 per 100,000 in 2009, says an AAP policy statement published online Oct. 18 in Pediatrics. But rates are still too high, said O. Marion Burton, MD, AAP immediate past president. “While the rate of firearm-related deaths has declined over the past two decades, it is still one of the top three causes of death in American youths,” he said. The AAP recommends that physicians discuss firearm safety as part of routine injury-prevention counseling. Such discussions are best done during well-child visits with parents present, Dr. Burton said. Counseling children about gun safety is not enough, he said. Young children are curious and unlikely to remember safety instructions, while older children can ha ...

Exam room disclosure: Nonphysicians must be clearly ID’d, states say

In Utah, a billboard advertisement showed a nurse practitioner dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope. The caption read, “I make house calls,” and the woman had the abbreviation “Dr.” before her name. In Mississippi, some physicians wanting to ensure appropriate follow-up care for discharged hospital patients have struggled to find those patients’ primary care physicians. The people who patients said were their doctors were not listed in the state’s physician directory because they were mid-level health professionals, not physicians. Such examples demonstrate how patients can be confused about the credentials of health care professionals, say supporters of the American Medical Association’s Truth in Advertising campaign. Since the campaign launched three years ago, 25 states have introduced legislation aimed at curtailing such confusion. Laws have been enacted in 12 of those states. “Patients deserve transparency in health care,” said AMA Board of Trustee ...