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Americans are living longer and healthier lives than ever, but the health care challenges that lie ahead are enormous. That was the assessment delivered Thursday by Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, during the first day of the 2005 Congressional Health Staff Forum held at the Kennedy School.
“The biggest challenge in health care is finding the ways to achieve advancements in quality and improvements in access at a price the country is willing to pay,” Fineberg said. Price is a critical element for consumers, he said, at a time when health care costs are spiraling across the board.
“I believe that unless we simultaneously deal with the costs of care, we will not be able to accomplish the other objectives on our agenda,” Fineberg said. Those objectives, highlighted by Fineberg during the discussion, include improving the quality of care, increasing access to health insurance, creating a “value-based” health care system, and addressing harmful “knowledge gaps” throughout the system.
Forum participants included about a dozen congressional staffers, representing a range of members, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Others at the table included Roger Herdman, director of the National Cancer Policy Forum; Mary Wilson, associate clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; and Barry Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The staffers are spending two days at the Kennedy School, taking part in discussion sessions focusing on bioterrorism, Avian influenza, vaccine development, drug safety, drug pricing, and stem cell research. They will also make patient rounds at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Some will visit the hospital’s intensive care unit, while others will visit inpatient units and the hospital emergency room.
The Congressional Health Staff Forum is co-sponsored by the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics and the Institute of Medicine.