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AMA Adopts New Public Health Policies at Annual Meeting

For immediate release
June 16, 2009

CHICAGO – The American Medical Association (AMA) voted today at its Annual Meeting to adopt the following new public health policies.

FLU PROTECTION GUIDELINES FOR AIRLINE TRAVEL: The recent outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus highlights the importance of basic hygiene to help protect patients from the flu. The confined nature of air travel poses an increased risk for influenza to passengers who are exposed to a sick flight mate who is coughing and/or sneezing.

“Avoiding close contact with sick people and washing your hands regularly can keep the flu bug away,” said AMA Board Member Joseph Annis, M.D. “We support the efforts of the CDC to develop clear and consistent guidelines to help ensure passengers and flight staff are protected from the spread of disease.”

ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES IN SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAMS: Tobacco kills 500,000 Americans each year and the medical community employs numerous ways to help patients quit smoking.

“We don’t yet know if electronic cigarettes can safely help patients quit smoking or the risks associated with delivering nicotine in this fashion,” said AMA Board Member Joseph Annis, M.D. “We will study electronic cigarettes to see if this is a viable option to help patients quit smoking and reduce the risk for smoking-related diseases.”

USE OF TASERS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES: An AMA report finds that tasers, when used appropriately, can save lives during interventions that would have otherwise involved the use of deadly force.

“While tasers can help law enforcement officers, proper use must be ensured through specific guidelines, rigorous training and an accountability system,” said AMA Board Member Joseph Annis, M.D. “There should also be a standardized approach to the medical evaluation of subjects exposed to tasers.”

VITAMIN D: To provide the public with credible information on vitamin D, the AMA reviewed current research on the issue and determined that there is insufficient data to recommend optimal levels for the population at large.

“We know vitamin D has health benefits for patients, such as strong bones and a reduced risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, but we need more data to know how much is appropriate to recommend,” said AMA Board Member Joseph Annis, M.D. “Long-term studies
that address the benefits and risks will go a long way toward helping physicians determine what is best for their patients.”

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For more information, contact:

Lisa Lecas
AMA Media Relations
(312) 464-5980