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From the November 1997 ACP Observer, copyright 1997 by the American College of Physicians.

Primary Care Day boasts dinners, lectures, health fairs, more

Medical students had dinner with primary care doctors, practiced injections on fruit, and attended health fairs and special lectures as part of the third annual National Primary Care Day held last month.

The Association of American Medical Colleges coordinated the day's events in conjunction with student-run internal medicine and family practice clubs.

"We had fun and learned a lot, too," said Joseph A. Vitterito, a medical student who helped turn the day into a week-long event at Dartmouth Medical School. Activities there included discussions by students who had had summer preceptorships, dinners held at primary care doctors' homes and a lecture on primary care in a matriarchal society from Lori Alvord, MD, a member of the Navajo nation and assistant dean at Dartmouth. "The essence of primary care is alive and well at Dartmouth," Mr. Vitterito said.

Other schools held different events:

  • At Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia, students participated in such hands on events as injecting oranges and hot dogs, and performing finger sticking for blood work.
  • For Grand Rounds at Jefferson Medical College, also in Philadelphia, Geno J. Merli, FACP, the director of the division of internal medicine, led a panel discussion on "Redefining Primary Care Education: Challenges to Health Care Systems."
  • Eastern Virginia Medical School held a residency fair attended by 30 primary care residency programs.

Uninsured rate stuck despite better job rate

Growth in the job rate should mean more Americans have health insurance, but a new report from the Alpha Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has found just the opposite has been true throughout the 1990s.

During this period of economic expansion, the uninsured rate has "remained remarkably stable," stuck at 15-17% of the non-elderly population. In some states, the number of uninsured people actually grew as the economy expanded. Estimated rates of year-round non-coverage range from 28.8% in New Mexico to 8.6% in Wisconsin, the report stated.

The problem is that many of the new jobs are in small firms—those with fewer than 100 workers—which are less likely to provide their employees with health insurance. The report also stated that the rates stayed stable because of some states' "deeply rooted characteristics."

For instance, the persistent rate of uninsurance in New Mexico comes because the state has "a large percentage of low-wage workers who tend to focus more on increasing their income than on gaining employer health coverage," the report stated. In addition, most of the job boom between 1993 and 1995 in New Mexico was in construction, services and retail-employment areas least likely to offer insurance.

CDC: progress on flu shots, but not for African-Americans

While nearly 60% of the nation's elderly got their flu shots in 1995—up from only 32% in 1987, according to the CDC—the rate of immunization among African-Americans was only half that of the white population.

Flu vaccines are free for anyone enrolled in Medicare Part B, as are vaccinations against pneumococcal infection; however flu and pneumonia remain the fifth leading cause of death among the elderly, according to the CDC. Up to 80% of the 70,000 deaths a year caused by flu and pneumonia could be prevented with these shots.

The federal government is urging all doctors and pharmacists who come in contact with older Americans to urge them to get a flu shot this month if they haven't gotten one yet this fall. A report in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly last month found that hospitals in 12 western states surveyed randomly missed at least one opportunity to administer the flu vaccine in 65 of the cases examined.

Compiled by Jennifer Fisher Wilson and Deborah Gesensway.

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