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AMA Adopts New Policies at Annual Meeting

For immediate release
June 21, 2011

CHICAGO – The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation's largest physician group, voted today at its Annual Meeting to adopt the following new policies.

NUTRITION COUNSELING FOR PREGNANT AND POSTPARTUM PATIENTS: The AMA voted to encourage physician referrals of pregnant and recent postpartum patients for nutrition counseling and to advocate for the extension of health insurance coverage for nutrition counseling for all pregnant and recent postpartum patients.

A recent study found that at one year postpartum, almost 25 percent of women retained at least 10 pounds of the weight gained during pregnancy. Insurance coverage for the cost of nutrition counseling for postpartum women currently varies.

"Many women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth could benefit from nutrition counseling," said AMA Board Member Barbara L. McAneny, MD. "By including nutrition counseling in the list of pregnancy-related services covered by health insurance, pregnant women and new mothers can better achieve and maintain a healthy weight for themselves and their children."

BODY IMAGE AND ADVERTISING TO YOUTH: Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models' bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents. A large body of literature links exposure to media-propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems.

The AMA adopted new policy to encourage advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations concerned with child and adolescent health to develop guidelines for advertisements, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.

"The appearance of advertisements with extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image. In one image, a model's waist was slimmed so severely, her head appeared to be wider than her waist," said Dr. McAneny. "We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software."

DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR INCARCERATED POPULATIONS: The AMA today adopted new policy recommending guidelines on menu planning be issued for incarcerated adolescents and adults to address their unique nutritional needs.

"Various challenges exist in providing affordable, palatable and low security-risk foods for inmates that will also meet their nutritive needs, and current menu planning practices vary across correctional and detention facilities," said Dr. McAneny. "Implementing dietary guidelines created specifically to address the needs of incarcerated populations could play a role in averting and managing chronic disease."

Nearly 2.3 million Americans are incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails, and the basic needs of inmates, including food and health care, must be met. With a high concentration of long-term inmates in these facilities, the lack of consistent guidelines has led to concerns about the nutritional adequacy of their diets as a means of averting and managing chronic disease.

RESIDENTS' AND FELLOWS' BILL OF RIGHTS: The AMA today adopted a "Residents' and Fellows' Bill of Rights," which outlines the rights of residents and fellows in the areas of education, supervision, evaluations of performance, safe workplace, compensation and benefits, duty hours, complaints and appeals process, and protection when reporting violations. The policy was adopted as part of a report from the AMA's Council on Medical Education.

"Medical residents and fellows deserve a safe and supportive place to work and learn, with the resources and rest they need to best serve their patients," said AMA Board Member Rebecca Patchin, MD. "The hands-on experience gained during residencies and fellowships is critical for physicians, and this bill of rights lays out clear, unifying standards for these programs across the country."

ENHANCING ATTENTION TO PERSONAL QUALITIES IN MEDICAL EDUCATION: Personal qualities, in addition to academic achievement, are important in determining who will succeed in a career in medicine. The AMA passed policy to work with organizations and medical schools to encourage improved assessment of personal qualities in medical school applicants, review the ways in which medical schools communicate the importance of personal qualities among applicants, and continue research on the personal qualities most pertinent to success as a medical student and as a physician. The policy was adopted on the recommendation of a report from the AMA's Council on Medical Education.

"There are many personal qualities in addition to academic excellence that can help to make a physician successful," said AMA Board Member Rebecca Patchin, MD. "Medical schools can benefit by considering the full range of academic and personal qualities when evaluating medical school applicants."

STANDARDIZED USER INTERFACE FOR ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS: Responding to physicians' concerns that electronic medical record (EMR) products are difficult to navigate and use for retrieving important patient information, the AMA voted today to advocate for the standardization of key elements of EMR interface design.

EMR user interfaces are comprised of icons, screen menus, keyboard shortcuts and control sequences that make it possible for physicians to interact with the software or operating system. Studies have documented physicians' difficulty in efficiently locating critical patient information in EMR systems due to poor user interface design.

"Efficiency is a key requirement for integrating EMR products in the hectic workflow of clinical practice," said AMA Board Member Steven J. Stack, MD. "Standardized EMR interface designs will help physicians working at multiple facilities with different EMR systems better navigate and use EMRs to help their patients."

The AMA will also advocate that medical facilities and health systems work toward standardized login procedures, continued physician education and more research on EMR user interface design that can improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care.

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Media Contacts:

Shannon O'Brien or Heather Lasher Todd
AMA Media Relations
Office; (312) 464-4430