Doctors look to future

Obesity, air quality, access to care are among association's priorities

By Jeff Hansel

The Minnesota Medical Association focused on public health in resolutions passed Friday that define its stance as an organization.

Dr. Michael Maves, CEO of the American Medical Association, said state medical associations bring fresh ideas to the table when they forward resolutions.


This year's resolutions focus on obesity, access to health care, mental health, privacy of patient information, use of family physicians, second-hand smoke and emergency contraception.

One item related to obesity was referred to the MMA Board of Trustees for further study; a resolution that would create an excise tax on soft drinks as a deterrent to stop kids from drinking too much pop.

"When I was a boy, soft drinks were really expensive. You probably got a bottle of pop once a month or so," testified Dr. Gene Kishel, a Virginia, Minn., pediatrician. "We have an epidemic of obesity among children, and one of the reasons is soda pop."

On another front, Dr. Theodore Fritsche, a Marshall ophthalmologist, said he wanted the MMA to support asking for an "any willing provider" law in Minnesota. Such a law would let patients keep their physician of choice when managed care plans change.

"In rural areas, especially where I'm from, de-selection of a provider in a small community could mean that his patients are virtually taken away in that community," Fritsche said. He said he has seen such situations with several physicians in southwest Minnesota. It happens, he said, "when local counties put up their welfare patients for bids to managed care organizations."

Dr. Paul Matson, newly installed MMA president, said there are many priorities for the organization. But some, like clean indoor air, are ongoing goals that continue to receive attention without the fanfare of other topics.

"Fifty years ago, if you would have gone to somebody in a building and said, 'You can't smoke,' they would have said, 'You're crazy,'" Matson said. But, with work from the MMA, he said, indoor air in Minnesota is cleaner. Now, he said, the focus is shifting to obesity, access to care and disparities in care.

MMA president-elect Dr. J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy said Minnesota is considered the top provider of medical care in the world.


"We're very concerned to keep it that way," he said.

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