With an increasing number of people in the U.S. becoming ill from vector-borne diseases—or infections spread through mosquito, tick and flea bites—the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy to further its efforts to address this emerging health care concern. Due to the increasing threat and limited capacity to respond to vector-borne diseases in the U.S., the AMA’s new policy calls for the AMA to advocate for improved surveillance for vector-borne diseases to better understand the geographic distribution of infectious vectors and where people are at risk.
The policy also calls for the development and funding of comprehensive and coordinated vector-borne disease prevention and control programs at the federal, state, and local levels, investments that strengthen our nation’s public health infrastructure and the public health workforce, and education and training for health care professionals and the public about the risk of vector-borne diseases. Under the new policy, the AMA will support prevention efforts as well as the dissemination of available information. Additionally, the policy calls for increased and sustained funding to address the growing burden of vector-borne diseases in the U.S.
“Our country currently has limited capacity to properly control mosquitoes, ticks and other sources of vector-borne disease that are causing more and more people to become ill. In fact, approximately 80 percent of vector control organizations lack the resources they need to prevent and control vector-borne diseases,” said AMA Board Member E. Scott Ferguson, M.D. “In order to protect our citizens from illness, we must ensure that health departments and other vector control organizations are equipped with funding and resources necessary to prevent and control vector-borne diseases. It is also vitally important that we educate health professionals and the public about existing and emerging vector-borne diseases as it will be critical to addressing both prevention and treatment efforts.”
Furthermore, the policy acknowledges that clinical research will be needed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of vector-borne diseases, noting specifically that Lyme disease should be an area of focus. Additionally, because no licensed vaccines for humans are currently available for any vector-borne disease pathogen present in the U.S., the new policy calls for vaccine development for vector-borne diseases.
According to a May 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of vector-borne disease tripled across the country between 2004 and 2016, and nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered during this same time period.
In addition, The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted new policy aimed at addressing the unique health and social needs of persons experiencing homelessness. The new policy calls for supporting the development of cost-effective, evidence-based plans to safely discharge individuals experiencing homelessness from emergency departments, and the expansion of affordable housing across all neighborhoods.
Under the new policy, the AMA will also support laws that protect the civil and human rights of individuals experiencing homelessness. This policy will help ensure that homeless individuals are not criminalized for carrying out life-sustaining activities, such as eating, sitting, or sleeping, in public spaces when no alternative private space is available—particularly when these activities are deemed non-criminal under typical circumstances.
“We know that many factors contribute to adverse health outcomes for homeless individuals. To help improve the health and well-being of people who experience homelessness, we must take a multi-pronged approach that includes collaboration among the community, government, social service organizations and physicians,” said AMA Board Member E. Scott Ferguson, M.D. “With homeless individuals relying heavily on emergency departments as their regular source of care, it is especially important that we reach beyond the hospital and into the community to offer clinical and social services to these vulnerable patients.”
Recognizing that stable, affordable housing is essential to the health of individuals, families, and communities, the AMA furthered its policy to support the preservation and expansion of affordable housing in all neighborhoods across the country.
More than 550,000 people experience homelessness in the U.S. on a single night, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress—with most staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs and approximately 35 percent staying in unsheltered locations.
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