ACPM issues recommendations to address severe shortage of preventive medicine physicians

Washington, DC - The American College of Preventive Medicine issued a series of recommendations today to increase the number of physicians qualified to assume leadership positions in state and local public health agencies. An article in the latest issue of Health Affairs ("A Prescription for Change: The Need For Qualified Physician Leadership in Public Health") calls attention to this critical shortage of public health physicians.

In the article, the author, Dr. Laura Kahn, highlights data from the American Medical Association showing that over the past 30 years the number of public health physicians has declined from 2.3 percent to 0.8 percent of the total physician workforce; and data from the National Association of County and City Health Officials showing that only 23 percent of local health agencies are directed by physicians. She illustrates how health department leaders who are not physicians may have difficulty handling serious outbreaks and other medical emergencies. According to Dr. Kahn, the critical skills needed to manage today's health departments in an era of emerging threats (both natural and intended) include epidemiology and the ability to diagnose illness and prescribe medical interventions. Dr. Kahn recognizes that these skills are taught in preventive medicine residency programs, yet financial support for such programs is weak.

To increase the supply of physicians board-certified in preventive medicine, i.e., the medical specialty that trains physicians in public health, the ACPM recommended the following:

  • Congress should resist the Bush administration's efforts to eliminate funding for public health and preventive medicine training in Fiscal Year 2004, and should provide funding at least equal to the $10.5 million provided in the current health professions training program of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • Congress and the Bush administration should amend the Medicare Graduate M

Contact: Michael Barry
American College of Preventive Medicine

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