HealthDay News — In testimony to Congress, a member of the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) addressed the importance of primary care and emphasized the value of increasing investment in primary care training programs.

During recent testimony before a Congressional subcommittee on primary health and aging, George Rust, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta and director of the National Center for Primary Care, along with other witnesses addressed primary care issues and urged Congress to work toward increasing the number of primary care providers.

Rust discussed the importance of primary care in assuring the nation’s health, with reference to several successes in America’s health, many of which have included distribution through medical care, especially primary care. These include success in treating heart attack and stroke, cervical cancer and influenza and pneumonia.

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Adequate primary care can also prevent unnecessary use of the emergency department in both rural and urban settings, Rust stated. By providing the right care at the right time in the primary care setting, hospitalizations and downstream costs can be avoided.

In addition, he addressed the disincentives that currently discourage medical schools from training primary care doctors, and emphasized that the focus should be directed toward primary care and patient-centered research. Academic medical centers should be reconnected with primary care and community health outcomes, with the teaching community health centers model serving as a good starting point.

“Let’s train the clinicians America actually needs,” Rust said in his testimony. “Let’s be smart about paying for [the education of health professionals] that gives us a good return on our investment, and then reap the benefits in lower health care spending, more appropriate care and better health for all Americans.”

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