New AGS Resources to Help Ensure High-Quality Geriatrics Health Care
As all of us in clinical care know well, what happens in Washington profoundly affects the practice of geriatrics. Legislative decisions regarding Medicare fee schedules and funding for geriatrics education, training programs, and research affect both our day-to-day practice and the future of geriatrics care. Media and public perceptions of geriatrics also have tremendous impact; among other things, they influence lawmakers. In light of this, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) has created three new Web-based resources to help geriatrics health care providers advocate for initiatives and programs that enhance our ability to care for our patients, and raise awareness of key issues among lawmakers, the media, and the public. These new resources are: The AGS Advocacy Center The Center, at www.americangeriatrics.org/advocacy, is designed to make it “as easy as 1, 2, 3” (the site’s slogan) to advocate for initiatives that will ensure high-quality care for older adults now and in the future.
The Center posts background information and timely updates on such key issues as the recent elimination of federal funds for Title VII geriatrics training programs—the only federal programs aimed at training much-needed geriatricians and other geriatrics health care providers. It also posts updates on AGS advocacy efforts to, among other things, ensure that Medicare reimbursement policy supports quality care for older adults, and that funding for Title VII training programs is included in the 2007 federal budget. To help those of us in the field get involved in advocacy, the AGS Advocacy Center includes easy-to-use tools such as customized letters and e-mails to legislators regarding these concerns. The AGS “Grassroots Media Toolkit” Available to AGS members via “My AGS,” (www.american geriatrics.org/myAGS) the Grassroots Media Toolkit is designed to help members work with the media to raise awareness of important issues affecting the health of older adults. It includes easy-to-follow, step-by-step guides to writing letters to the editor, Op-Eds, articles, and columns on aging and health. The kit also includes samples of each of these.
The AGS staffers are in the process of linking the new Toolkit with the AGS Advocacy Center to offer one-click access to all of AGS’ member communications and advocacy resources. In the near future, the Grassroots Media Toolkit will also include tips on giving interviews with newspaper, magazine, radio, and television reporters. The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging’s “Story Site” Through its new “Health in Aging Stories Initiative,” the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging is collecting stories from older adults and their caregivers about the care they have received from geriatrics health care providers. The Foundation is asking those who wish to share their stories to post them on its new Health in Aging Stories site, at www.healthinaging.org/caregiver, where others seeking appropriate care for older adults can read them. The idea behind the site, which will include stories from older adults and caregivers in a variety of situations, is to showcase stories that illustrate the difference that geriatrics care can make in the lives of older adults. Visitors to the site can read stories from those in situations similar to their own—stories that can help them determine what kind of care will best meet their needs.
The AGS also plans to share the stories with the media and legislators to illustrate how important high-quality geriatrics care is. These three resources can go a long way in helping us ensure that our patients get the best possible health care. But we need to continue our advocacy efforts not only on our patients’ behalf but also to strengthen and vitalize our profession. Each of us can help make a difference. I urge you to visit the Advocacy Center, and use the Grassroots Media Toolkit to send a quick letter or e-mail about Medicare reimbursement, Title VII funding, or other key issues to your legislators or local paper, and to mention the AGS Foundation’s Health in Aging Stories site to patients, family, and friends who have stories about geriatrics they’d like to share, or who are looking for quality care for older adults. I also urge you to get involved in your AGS state affiliate geriatrics society and in the Council of State Affiliate Representatives (COSAR) that serves these affiliates. State affiliates have and will continue to play a key role in urging public officials—not only at the federal, but also at the state level—to propose and support initiatives that promote quality elder care and that strengthen our profession. With your help, our efforts to ensure quality care for older adults and to focus on making the practice of geriatric medicine a key issue in health care will be more successful. With the new resources from the AGS described above, it’s easier than ever.