AMA Offers Advice for a Healthy New Year

Published February 1, 2006

In the final week of 2005, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a list of top resolutions to help people have a healthier 2006.

“The start of another new year provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months and look ahead to changes we can make today to improve our health tomorrow,” said AMA President J. Edward Hill, M.D. in a statement announcing the resolutions. “It is important that we develop positive lifestyle habits that we can work on in 2006 and carry with us throughout our lives.”

Prepare for Disasters

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Hill said, it became clear families should develop a communication plan for getting in touch with each other in an emergency and should create an emergency supply kit and store it in a safe, dry place.

The kit should include a list of important family health information and documents, advised Hill, such as copies of family immunization and health records, a list of prescriptions and dosages, and the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers. “When possible,” said Hill, “your medical records should be kept electronically on a disc or USB drive. If this is not possible, people should have their medical records in a convenient and portable form. Katrina was definitely a wake-up call to everyone.”

Develop an Advance Directive

In March 2005, the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman taken off food and water after being in a brain-damaged state for 14 years, spurred a national dialogue on end-of-life care planning. Noted Hill in his statement announcing the resolutions, lessons learned from the Schiavo “tragedy should encourage everyone to write a living will, appoint a durable power of attorney for health care, and discuss their wishes with family or a designated caretaker.”

Hill noted physicians can help with these important decisions as patients grapple with this difficult topic. He recommended people talk to their physicians and use the health care community as a resource to help them make educated decisions for the future.

Study Medicare Drug Options

Medicare has taken an important step forward by offering a prescription drug benefit for the first time, Hill said. The AMA encourages those in Medicare or with loved ones in Medicare to educate themselves about the new benefit, which went into effect January 1.

Families, Hill said, should take time to review the most applicable prescription drug options for the Medicare-eligible patient.

Common-Sense Prevention

In light of general concerns over the flu and specific worries about avian flu, Americans should remain informed and take common-sense steps to stay healthy, advised Hill. Everyone, he said, can take sensible steps to prepare for the flu season–and those steps may help protect against pandemic flu as well.

Typically, influenza does not peak in the United States until February, so it is worthwhile to check with one’s physician about the annual flu vaccine. To avoid germs that cause the flu, Hill said, people should wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their nose or mouth with their hands, and, if they are sick, cover coughs with a tissue or sleeve.

Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

With so many Americans concerned about being overweight or obese, the AMA suggests it is more important than ever to make lifestyle choices known to enhance quality of life. These include daily exercise, a well-balanced diet, and avoiding tobacco and excessive drinking.

In addition, Hill pointed out patients who manage their chronic conditions help themselves and others. “Good patient compliance helps reduce health care costs and helps reduce concerns about individuals with chronic conditions,” Hill said. “It is often lack of care that drives up cost and eventually overloads the health care work force.”

As always, the AMA recommends one consult with one’s physician before beginning any new exercise program.

“These resolutions are simply a few of the things you can do to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes,” said Hill. He directed people to the AMA Web site ( for a wide range of public health information. “And without question, you should continue to turn to your physician to provide the highest quality of care for you and your family,” said Hill in his statement.

Susan Konig ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.

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