As my term as IDSA president begins, I want to introduce several important priorities the Society will be focusing on in the year ahead. As this brief list indicates, IDSA continues its strong commitment to serve the needs of a diverse membership with a broad policy agenda, incorporating the needs of both scientists and researchers in the academic setting and practicing ID clinicians who are on the front-line providing direct patient care.
Not surprisingly, IDSA will continue to play an important role in the response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. As we have already seen, H1N1 has created one of the most challenging influenza seasons in memory, and IDSA will make sure the perspectives of ID clinicians and scientists are heard by key policymakers regarding how to best protect the public and health care workers (HCWs).
In a recent example, IDSA joined with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in November to urge the Obama administration to update current federal guidance for the use of personal protective equipment by HCWs (see related article). IDSA and our colleagues at SHEA and APIC believe this guidance, which calls for HCWs in close contact with influenza patients to wear N-95 respirators rather than surgical masks, does not reflect the best available science and could limit the availability of already scarce respirators for situations where they are truly needed.
Demonstrating the value that ID specialists add to our nation’s health care system, both in patient care and non-patient care activities, is another important priority for IDSA. Despite strong opposition from IDSA and virtually all internal medicine subspecialties, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently finalized a rule that will eliminate payments for inpatient and outpatient consultation codes, starting in January 2010 (see related article).
This development underscores our specialty’s need to develop evidence to support what we strongly believe to be true: ID specialists improve outcomes for patients and often reduce health care costs. As the nation’s health care reform process progresses, the Society will continue to pursue this important goal, in addition to providing IDSA members with additional guidance on billing and coding.
Shortly after the 47th Annual Meeting of IDSA in Philadelphia, there was welcome news in another area very important to the Society—addressing the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. In early November, President Barack Obama and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, representing the European Union presidency, agreed to establish a transatlantic task force to address this global health problem (see related article). IDSA looks forward to working with this group to help ensure that experts from the medical, scientific, and public health fields are involved in this critical effort. Specific to the antibacterial drug pipeline problem, IDSA has already weighed in strongly in a letter to both political leaders.
Additionally, IDSA will continue to engage lawmakers and federal agencies through its three work groups on resistance, the Antimicrobial Availability Task Force, the Research on Resistance Work Group, and the Antimicrobial Resistance Work Group. This includes pushing for passage of the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act, which IDSA took a lead role in crafting (see previous IDSA News article). Drug resistance in general remains a pressing problem, as even this challenging influenza season has shown us, with increased concerns about resistance to antiviral medications.
Of course, the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) will continue to play an important role by promoting quality in HIV care and advocating for polices that ensure a science-based, comprehensive and human response to the AIDS pandemic. In addition, the Center for Global Health Policy, a project of IDSA and HIVMA, will remain an important voice in promoting the effective, evidence-based use of U.S. funding for addressing the global HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics.
This is not a complete list of IDSA priorities—for instance, the Society will also continue to press for appropriate funding for the government agencies that patients, ID physicians, and scientists rely on, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to name just two. But I believe the important examples described above demonstrate the Society’s commitment to its diverse membership, a commitment that will remain unchanged under my presidency. I look forward to serving you.
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