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Center urges HHS to modify name of "Take a Loved One to the Doctor" campaign

Health Gap logo December 7, 2004 -- The Center has launched a campaign to persuade the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to change the name of its annual "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" campaign to one that would not exclude Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), including Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Psychotherapists and Clinical Nurse Specialists. Over 100,000 APRNs provide high quality, cost-effective primary care in the U.S. today, with a special focus on the very minority populations the "Loved One" campaign targets. We believe this modest name change would enhance the campaign's effect on these populations, and at the same time address the public image problem that is a critical factor in the nursing shortage. Since the "Loved One" campaigns began in 2002, a number of nurses have tried to persuade HHS to modify the name, without success.

February 3, 2005 -- Please click here to see the successful outcome of this campaign.

We have also sent this letter to Tom Joyner, host of the #1 urban radio show heard in 100 markets on the ABC radio network. Mr. Joyner has been the "Loved One"'s honorary chair for its three year history.

Click here to see our press release.

See below for our Executive Director's letter and a letter from the American College of Nurse-Midwives

Our Executive Director's letter to HHS is below:

Dear Secretary Tommy Thompson; Tom Joyner, Honorary Chair; Garth Graham, MD, MPH, Director, Office of Minority Health; Tuei Doong, Deputy Director; Mirtha Beadle, Acting Deputy Director; Teresa Chapa, PhD, MPA, Director, Division of Policy and Data; Cynthia Amis, Director, Division of Program Operations; and Blake Crawford, Director Division of Information and Education:

I am writing to request that you change the name of the Department's "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" campaign to one that would not exclude Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) including Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Psychotherapists. This modest change would enhance the campaign's effect on the very minority populations the campaign targets, which are served in significant part by APRNs. At the same time, it would address the public image problem that is a critical factor in the nursing shortage, one of the nation's most urgent public health crises.

At the outset, I note that APRNs are already within the scope of the campaign, as your press release announcing the September 2004 campaign included nurses when it urged the public to make appointments with physicians or "other health professionals." So it would appear that the critical issues are whether the campaign's name adequately reflects who is likely to be providing care to those it targets, and whether it serves the Department's overall purpose of promoting public health. We submit that a change to include APRNs would better serve both these goals.

As you know, the campaign is intended primarily to reduce health disparities affecting ethnic and racial minorities. Often, in the communities of these minorities, APRNs primary health care is one of the only, or even the only, practical option for many residents. The nation's 100,000+ APRNs provide high quality, cost-effective primary care to both adults and children. Substantial research confirms that APRN care is at least as good as that of physicians. And the holistic, community-oriented approach of APRNs is an excellent fit for the target populations of this campaign.

The change we recommend would also serve to ease the critical nursing shortage, which is currently threatening lives nationwide and could be a major problem in the nation's response to any significant mass casualty event. One key factor in the shortage is the low level of public understanding of the real contributions of nurses. Today's nurses--though still subject to regressive stereotypes in most popular media--are highly skilled, life-saving professionals who are changing the future of health care through groundbreaking research and clinical innovation. Prominent recognition of the contributions of APRNs through a major public campaign like this one would remind the public that nurses are a vital part of the nation's health care team.

We recognize that the current campaign title is catchy, and perhaps it has tested well in focus groups. However, surely some other alternative could communicate the basic idea in an equally effective way. A potential idea might include "Take a Loved One for a Check-Up Day," but we're sure that your professional staff could come up with many options.

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in pursuing this modest change, which would make a big difference for nurses, their patients, and the nation as a whole. Thank you very much.

Sandy Summers, RN, MSN, MPH
Executive Director
The Truth About Nursing
203 Churchwardens Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21212-2937
office 410-323-1100
fax 443-705-0260

See below for the letter sent by the American College of Nurse-Midwives

Dear [OMH official]

The American College of Nurse-Midwives was pleased to serve as a national partner in the 2004 "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" campaign. Working with our Midwives of Color Committee, national office staff drafted commentaries, prepared a press release and created a web link to the OHHRC web site. An article in our newsletter, Quickening" (enclosed) and communications to our Chapter Chairs via our list servs encouraged our members to get involved on a local level.

The purpose of the campaign is certainly in line with the mission of the ACNM. Midwives have a long history of caring for vulnerable populations, bringing an expertise that has contributed to improved health for diverse groups of traditionally underserved women. Midwives rode on horseback into the hollers of Appalachia and traveled to rural fishing villages in Alaska to establish heath care clinics, and continue to serve those same communities today in urban health centers, in rural hospitals, on reservations, and in migrant camps. It is not uncommon to find nurse-midwives "where there is no doctor," or to find a midwife who has served a community for many years while physicians have come and gone. It is because of this history, and their commitment to filling critical needs in health care delivery, that our members and staff are concerned about the title of the "Doctor Day" campaign.

We realize that "Doctor Day" lends itself well to brief communication and posters, but it doesn’t reflect the realities of health care delivery to communities of color. We notice that partners have already renamed the campaign – "Take your Loved One to be Screened Day," Take a Health Professional to the People Day" and "Take your Cellie to the Nurse Day." The campaign might be centrally renamed "Take a Loved One for a Check Up Day," or "Check up Day," a title that uses widely recognized language, fits neatly in a headline, yet avoids naming a single provider group. It is our belief that by broadening the language used, you will realize greater participation from provider groups and their members.

The federal government has not hesitated to support the profession of midwifery --providing funding for education programs, mandating payment for midwifery services and revising the birth certificate to identify midwife-attended births -- and the public has a growing regard for the work of CNMs and NPs. There are still struggles, however, to combat negative stereotypes and to ensure public understanding of midwifery and advanced practice nursing. Renaming the campaign would not minimize the important role of physicians, nor limit the appeal of the campaign to doctors. It would, however, go a long way in supporting the efforts of the thousands of nurse-midwives providing important primary care services to your target population.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how this important initiative can be improved. We would be happy to meet with you in person at your convenience. We look forward to supporting your ongoing efforts and participating in the 2005 Closing the Gap campaign.

Lisa Summers, CNM, DrPH, Senior Technical Advisor, Professional Services
Tim Clarke, Communications Manager

American College of Nurse-Midwives
8403 Colesville Road, Suite 1550
Silver Spring, MD 20910-6374
Phone: 240-485-1800
Fax: 240-485-1818

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