Tragedy and Horror: Must Renew our Efforts to Prevent Violence.

Horrific events like last week's shootings shake us at our core, bring fear into our lives, and focus our thoughts on how precious and fleeting life truly is.  We ask ourselves why and seek answers so that we can prevent this from ever happening again. Unfortunately, these shootings are only the most recent in a string of violence and mass killings over the past 2 decades. The typical responses include that there are too many guns, or that there are too few guns, or that the mentally ill are dangerous, or that the mental health system is broken and severely underfunded.  Initially, there are calls for tighter gun control, looser gun control, and enhancing the mental health system. However, as we get further from each of these events, the energy and passion for prevention wanes, and we are then left with two highly polarized groups fighting over gun control sucking up all the airtime and energy for change.

Addressing the State's Mental Health Crisis.

The state budget cuts over the past two years have impacted the health of our patients and the public health infrastructure in many ways, but perhaps the most damaging cuts have fallen on those with mental illness.  In 2009, the legislature's budget resulted in the closure of 60 beds at New Hampshire Hospital (NHH) the state’s inpatient psychiatric care hospital.  The community mental health safety net took a significant hit as well.  While this made the budget look better on the surface, the problems associated with mental illness did not disappear and neither did their costs.  

Yesterday we received good news from the state. Health and Human Services Commissioner, Nick Toumpas, announced short term and long term plans to address the state's mental health crisis.  

Join Us in Supporting Anti-Smoking Efforts!

In 2007, NH passed the Indoor Smoking Act that went into effect, banning smoking in schools, child daycare facilities, hospitals, grocery stores, elevators and public conveyances (except when rented for private purposes), restaurants, bars, and private clubs when open to the public. Between 1991 and 2008 a total of 32 states passed similar smoking bans all of which were hotly debated but ultimately passed for a variety of reasons including the impact of second hand smoke on the personal liberties of nonsmokers. NHMS strongly supported the Indoor Smoking Act and we were proud to be part of the advocacy effort to pass the bill. You may be thinking, why is this newsworthy today?

NHMS Supports Important Health Policy Areas.

A central role of NHMS is to work on policies to enhance the public's health and the practice environment.  At our most recent executive council meeting, we voted on two important health policy areas:  

1.  The New Hampshire Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons brought forth an issue that some hospitals were not open to negotiating their service call relationships with specialty providers.  Following a spirited discussion of the nature of service call and our professional obligations, we unanimously voted to support physicians as they seek to pursue meaningful negotiations in providing service coverage. 

NHMS Facilitating Connections and Best Practices.

This week the AMA had its interim meeting in Hawaii and while I didn't have the opportunity to attend, I was able to watch some of the proceedings via the net.  I was particularly struck by the comments of AMA President Jeremy Lazarus. You can watch his full presentation Here. In talking about how to move forward with implementing health care reform and creating a model of care integration Dr. Lazarus said, "Our loftiest aspirations are exactly what's needed now to transform our health care system...and that physicians can accomplish great things when they work together."  He also indicated that even with increased partnerships within medicine, physicians will need to build connections with those outside of medicine to address the social determinants of health such as housing, employment and education and their impact on individual health.  

First Step in Our Journey to Better Healthcare System in NH.

Elections bring out strong emotions in all of us.  There are winners and losers and we often feel very strongly about the candidates we supported.  Following the election, we are exhausted from the campaign.  We are left wondering what, if anything, are we to do next and how can we move our agenda forward.  The answer is rarely clear, however, regardless of how we feel about the results of the election, doing nothing is not an option.

The work of the NHMS is critically important to advancing our profession and the public's health. While we may not know how our agenda will be received by our elected officials, we must reach out in good faith to them because they are the ones with whom we will work with over the next few years. 

Honored to be 181st President.

This past weekend the NHMS voted in new officers and I was honored to be elected as our 181st president.  Our Society is one of great tradition that values science, advocacy, individual health, public health, and the sacred doctor-patient relationship.  This year I hope to continue the important work of Dr. Cooper and the other 179 presidents who preceded me.  I plan to focus our efforts on: building a robust portfolio of health policy related activities, advocating to reinstate the tobacco tax to prevent youth and adult smoking, and addressing the state budget crisis so future state budgets better reflect New Hampshire and NHMS values. These are big and important initiatives and the NHMS is going to need your help.

 

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