AMA Adopts New Public Health Policies to Improve Health of Nation
The American Medical Association (AMA) (@AmerMedicalAssn) gathered physician and medical student leaders from all corners of medicine at its Annual Meeting to shape guiding policies on emerging health care topics.
The new policies adopted on the final voting day of voting at the AMA Annual Meeting include advocating for children’s mental health, clarifying the role of BMI as a medical measurement, improving regulations for transporting hazardous chemicals, and addressing inequities in wastewater treatment systems.
Children’s Mental Health Represents National Emergency
An estimated one in five children in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder each year and as of 2021 suicide was the second leading cause of death among children aged 10-14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, while many mental health disorders can be treated, nearly half of young adults do not receive the mental health services they need, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Given these startling statistics, delegates adopted policy to advocate that children’s mental health and barriers to mental health care access for children represent a national emergency that requires urgent attention.
The new policy also calls on the AMA to join with other interested parties to advocate for efforts to increase the mental health workforce to address the increasing shortfall in access to appropriate mental health care for children.
“A large proportion of our children are not only facing mental health disorders but aren’t receiving treatment. We are in a crisis situation with children’s mental health, and we must come together as a nation to do everything possible to prioritize children’s mental, emotional and behavioral health and ensure they have access to the care they need,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jack Resneck, Jr., M.D. “Physicians play a vital role in identifying and treating children’s mental health disorders, and it is imperative that more physicians and mental health professionals are trained and available to fill the gaps that exist for children accessing mental health treatment.”
Improving Hazardous Chemical Transport Regulations to Protect Public Health
In light of multiple chemical spills caused by train derailments in recent months, the AMA House of Delegates this week adopted policy aimed at advocating for improved regulations for the transportation of hazardous materials. Under the new policy, the AMA will advocate for regulations that prioritize public health and safety over cost. The new policy also supports efforts to hold companies responsible for chemical spills by making them liable for the health care costs incurred by individuals exposed to hazardous chemicals. The policy also supports the creation of a registry for people impacted by hazardous chemical exposures to aid in monitoring the health effects of these exposures.
“As we’ve seen with the recent chemical spill in Ohio caused by a train derailment, the people living in the community surrounding the spill have been exposed to hazardous material. Since then, there have been a number of other trains carrying hazardous material that have derailed and it is imperative that we do everything we can to protect the well-being of impacted communities,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jack Resneck, Jr. M.D. “The companies in charge of transporting hazardous materials must be held accountable when they cause a chemical spill that threatens the health and safety of the people living in the communities surrounding the spill. We will push for regulations and policies aimed at ensuring public health is the utmost priority in regulating hazardous chemical transport.”
Addressing Inequity in Onsite Wastewater Treatment
Because septic tanks are complex and expensive to install and require permitting from the Environmental Protection Agency, many homes and businesses in rural, underserved communities are left to use “straight pipe” sanitation systems—which cause untreated wastewater to be released directly into the environment. Delegates adopted policy this week aimed at reducing and eliminating inadequate wastewater treatment systems. Under the new policy, the AMA will support federal, state, local, and tribal governments in suspending enforcement of sanitation laws that could result in criminal charges, fines, jail time, and potential property loss for residents who lack the means to purchase functioning septic systems in underserved communities and American Indian reservations.
“Imposing criminal penalties and financial fines on residents and communities without the means to install proper sanitation systems will only serve to further exacerbate the inequities they face. We must instead work together to help these communities improve their wastewater treatment systems,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jack Resneck, Jr., M.D.
About the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care. The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.