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Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the AMA

AMA initiative to target diabetes, heart disease

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: April 22, 2013 - 4:00 pm ET

By working with ongoing national campaigns and “galvanizing America's physicians,” the American Medical Association will be seeking to reduce the deaths and healthcare costs associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the AMA, said the organization has earmarked $6 million for the first year of its multiyear Improving Health Outcomes initiative, which could continue for a decade or more.

“We're committed to this for the long haul,” Lazarus said in an interview. “These are two of the chronic conditions we think we can influence in a meaningful way.”

Lazarus noted that cardiovascular disease accounts for one third of all deaths in the U.S. and, if current trends continued, one third of all U.S. adults will have type 2 diabetes by 2050. He added that the direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is more than $535 billion a year.

Lazarus announced the initiative during the National Summit on Health Disparities being hosted in Washington by the National Quality Forum. He noted how rates of diabetes are higher in African American, Latino and Native American communities. Blacks also have higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

“Some of it has to do with genetics, some of it has to do with access to care,” Lazarus explained.

The initiative will begin by focusing on risk factors and will aim at lowering U.S adults' blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol to more optimal levels.

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On cardiovascular disease, the AMA will be working with Johns Hopkins Medicine's Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality in Baltimore to help millions of Americans get their high blood pressure under control.

The goal is to surpass the target set by HHS' Million Hearts Campaign to bring the hypertension of 10 million more Americans under control by 2017. Lazarus said the AMA campaign is “aligned with, and consistent with” HHS' effort, “but not exactly the same.”

“We're going to be aiming higher,” he said.

The AMA will also partner with YMCA of the USA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to target adults whose blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet diabetic. The AMA will support the CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program. It will also work with physicians to direct their pre-diabetes patients to YMCA diabetes-prevention programs.

“This is the launch, this is the first step,” Lazarus said. “The other steps are going to come pretty quick.”

The initiative is part of the AMA's five-year strategic plan, which also includes campaigns to revamp the nation's medical education system and enhance medical practice sustainability.

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