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AMA Adopts New Public Health Policies to Improve Health of Nation

For immediate release:
Jun 14, 2016
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CHICAGO - The American Medical Association (AMA), the premier national physician organization in the country, today voted to adopt new policies aimed at improving the health of the nation. The new policies were approved during the voting session of the AMA's Annual Meeting.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates today include:

Preventing Detergent Poisoning in Children 
Recognizing that concentrated detergent packets can compromise children's health and safety, the AMA today adopted policy calling for the redesign of detergent product packages to make them less attractive to children to help prevent accidental exposure or ingestion.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 2012 and 2013 more than 17,000 children under the age of six were exposed to highly-concentrated laundry detergent pods—the majority of which were ingested—resulting in hundreds of hospitalizations and one confirmed death.

"While liquid detergent pods were developed as a means of convenience for consumers, they have also had unfortunate, unintended health consequences for children due to their colorful, candy-like packaging which is enticing to young eyes," said AMA Board Member William E. Kobler, M.D. "We urge state and federal authorities to enact laws, including the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety Act, to ensure that these packages are child-resistant, less attractive in color and design, and include clear and obvious warning labels to help deter further child exposure and the harmful health effects that could result."

Preventing Hearing Loss in Children from Noisy Toys 
From talking dolls to musical instruments, many children's toys emit intense sound that could cause lasting hearing damage. To help prevent long-term hearing loss in children, the AMA today adopted policy in support of specific noise exposure standards for children's toys.

"Parents need to know that their children's toys could be producing dangerously high levels of sound that could seriously impair their hearing," said AMA Board Member Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D. "We encourage manufacturers to ensure that the toys they produce adhere to pediatric noise exposure standards and include a warning label on any products that exceed safety standards so that parents can make an informed decision when buying sound-emitting toys."

Protecting Health Care Workers from Violence
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 70 percent of all reported workplace assaults between 2011 and 2013 occurred in health care and social service settings. To help address this alarming trend, the AMA adopted policy today to help bolster the safety of all health care workers. The new policy calls on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require health care employers across the country to implement workplace violence prevention programs. While OSHA has issued guidelines for preventing workplace violence in health care settings, there is currently no enforceable, federal requirement for employers to implement them.

"As violent incidents continue to plague hospitals, emergency departments, residential care settings and treatment centers, we must do everything we can to protect the health and well-being of our health care workers," said AMA Board Member Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D. "We urge the federal government to develop and enforce a federal standard for health care employers to help shield health care workers from workplace violence."

AMA's new policy also encourages physicians to participate in training to prevent and respond to threats of workplace violence, report incidents of workplace violence and help promote a culture of safety within their workplace.

Supporting Hemorrhage Control Training to Save More Trauma Victims
According to the World Health Organization, uncontrolled bleeding is the leading cause of potentially preventable death in trauma patients worldwide. Similarly, the United States military found that uncontrolled hemorrhage due to trauma was the most common cause of preventable death among more than 6,800 military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. The AMA today adopted policy to encourage training for both professional first responders and the public in hemorrhage control techniques to help save the lives of more trauma victims.

"After implementing hemorrhage control training to help victims of trauma, the military saw a significant decrease in the number of deaths caused by uncontrolled bleeding in these patients. We believe that by equipping the public, police, and others who are first on the scene of a traumatic event with training and supplies to control bleeding, we will also be able to help save more trauma patients," said AMA Board Member and U.S. Navy combat veteran Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D.

Addressing Safe Sex in Residential Aged Care Facilities to Protect Residents
More than one million U.S. residents live in long-term care facilities, yet only about 25 percent of those facilities have policies in place that address sexual activity, according to a 2013 survey by the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. The AMA today adopted policy urging long-term care facilities to enact policies and procedures on intimacy and sexual behavior to preserve residents' rights to pursue sexual relationships, while protecting them from unsafe, unwanted, or abusive situations.

"With many seniors continuing to engage in sexual activity well into their 80s and 90s as well as recent increases in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among the elderly, it is very important for long-term care facilities to recognize the importance of having resources in place to ensure the safety of residents who are sexually active," said AMA Board Member William E. Kobler, M.D. "We encourage long-term care facilities to acknowledge sexual behavior among their residents and offer guidance to workers on how best to address it—creating a more positive culture for residents and reducing health and safety concerns, including preventing the spread of STDs." 

Reforming the Nation's Juvenile Justice System to Protect Adolescent Health and Prevent Recidivism
The United States has the highest youth confinement rates in the world according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation, yet 40 percent of today's juvenile detentions and confinements are the result of non-violent offenses. With growing concerns about the lasting adverse mental and physical health effects on incarcerated youth, the AMA today adopted new policies calling for reforms of the nation's juvenile justice system to help protect the long-term health and safety of adolescents during and after confinement. New policy also aims to help prevent youth incarceration when rehabilitation or community-based alternatives are most appropriate and no threat to public safety exists.

These policies include encouraging states to only suspend Medicaid coverage for incarcerated youth following their arrest and detention rather than terminating their coverage completely to ensure they have continued access to health care services upon their return to the community. The policy adopted today also supports school discipline policies that focus on rehabilitation rather than "zero tolerance" policies that unnecessarily push young people into the juvenile justice system. Additionally, new AMA policy calls for reforming laws to reduce the number of youth transferred to adult criminal court, including encouraging states to increase the upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction to at least 17 years of age, as some states currently consider 15 or 16 the oldest age at which a juvenile court has jurisdiction.

"Most incarcerated youth today suffer from childhood trauma, mental health disorders or substance use disorders and require proper treatment. While we have extensive scientific evidence showing significant differences in cognitive function and decision-making between adolescents and adults and the impact trauma has on adolescent brain development, the law has been slow to apply these scientific findings to the juvenile justice system." said AMA Board Member Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D. "The AMA is calling on the federal government, states and schools to implement policies and programs that focus on rehabilitating and treating incarcerated youth to promote their long-term health and wellness, and help prevent unnecessary confinement when better alternatives exist."

The AMA's House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, medical students and residents representing every state and medical field. Delegates work in a democratic process to create a national physician consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.

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Media Contact:
AMA Media and Editorial
Pressroom: (312) 239-4991
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