Physicians Speak Out During National Primary Care Week

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Doctors celebrating National Primary Care Week

Most of us know October is a busy month when it comes to promoting awareness for important health and social concerns. It’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Domestic Violence Month and National Bullying Prevention Month. But one dedicated week that may have slipped past your radar is National Primary Care Week. Celebrated this year from October 1 to October 5, National Primary Care Week focuses on a variety of ways physicians can make positive differences within their communities. Let’s look at this invaluable campaign and what it can mean for communities around the country.

Primary care is the backbone of the medical community, and primary care physicians are on the front lines while we battle our everyday health concerns. This year’s daily themes take the word “primary” to new heights, as sponsoring organization American Medical Student Association prompts physicians to speak out about:

  • Maternal mortality and pre-natal care
  • Firearm safety
  • Mental health
  • Women in medicine
  • Opioid addiction

Maternal Mortality & Pre-Natal Care

Did you know the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is on the rise? According to Merck, “an estimated 60 percent of these deaths are preventable, and for every maternal death, nearly 100 women suffer a life-threatening complication during pregnancy and childbirth, often with long-term health consequences.”

Mom holding stomach for National Primary Care Week

This means that despite the medical advancements found in hospitals around the world women and children are dying during pregnancy and childbirth – and the numbers are staggering! Why? Simply put: a lack of access. Many women in the United States do not have access to medical services and care they need for healthy pregnancies. The struggle for access is challenging across the globe.

During #NPCW2018, Merck announced their new initiative to help secure access to healthcare for women. The project is called Merck for Mothers, and the goal is to support cities throughout the United States with grants ranging from $500,000 – $1 million to “develop cross-sector coalitions, implement evidence-informed interventions and stimulate creative solutions to improve maternal health in their communities.”

Firearm Safety

Sadly, parents, grandparents, children, friends and neighbors around the globe have suffered sleepless nights worrying about gun violence. Trying to figure out sustainable solutions to this far-reaching issue seems to spark vitriol at every turn. But that dynamic may be shifting.

If you scan headlines in newspapers across the United States, you’ll see people of all ages, races, genders and religions are banding together and working hard to enact positive change and end gun violence. Organizations are offering free gun safety courses, schools are implementing new safety initiatives and local police departments are dedicating resources to community programs. While lawmakers may clash over the topic, communities are working together to find solutions.

Mental Illness

The issues surrounding mental health have a specific message during National Primary Care Week this year: the large impact it has within the LGBTQ community. No matter how we identify, mental health services and self care should be readily available to everyone.

According to Mental Health America, more people have access to care, but “56% of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. Even in Maine, the state with the best access, 41.4% of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment.” And LGBTQ individuals are nearly 3 times more likely than others to “experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.” This often stems from the fear of coming out and the fear of being discriminated against based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, which can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.

You might be surprised to know that there’s actually a shortage of mental health professionals in the United States. Studies show that in states with the lowest workforce, there is “up to 6 times the individuals to only 1 mental health professional. This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and psychiatric nurses combined.”

Women in Medicine

In a world where we’re seeing great strides towards empowering women, National Primary Care Week is taking a stand in the healthcare community to celebrate women in medicine and their achievements. Did you know that in 2017 half of the entering class in medical schools across the United States was made up of females?

Back in 2008, the AMSA launched the Women Leaders in Medicine award to recognize women physicians and educators who are dedicated to changing the face of medicine. Whether they’re doctors, nurses, researchers or scholars, these women deserve recognition for their accomplishments and fostering tomorrow’s women leaders in medicine.

Opioid Addiction

Widespread opioid addiction is a struggle that every corner of the country seems to be fighting to one extent or another. Physicians are right there with their communities fighting this deadly epidemic.

According to AMSA, the shocking rise in opioid prescriptions is contributing to the alarming rate of unintentional opioid deaths. “Every day more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. Opioid overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old.” Last year, 11.4 million misued prescription opioids and over 17,000 died from overdosing on commonly prescribed opioids.

Opioid crisis National Primary Care Week

It’s crucial for the healthcare community as well as communities at large to continue to raise awareness and share testimonies about the various forms of opioid abuse. It’s a conversation that takes a village during National Primary Care Week and all year around.

What you can do as a patient 

While the focus of National Primary Care Week is for primary care physicians-in-training and those in practice to make their voices are heard, it’s crucial for the public to do the same. Learn more about the themes and calls to action by clicking here. Learn more about the American Medical Student Association by clicking here and here.

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