Published 6/1/2009
Nick Piatek

AAOS Act of 2009: A top priority for NOLC visits

When attendees of the 2009 National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference (NOLC) went to visit their Congressional representatives, they took the opportunity to promote the “Access to America’s Orthopaedic Services (AAOS) Act of 2009.” The proposal is aimed at improving research, diagnosis, and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases, conditions, and injuries.

“As the experts in a vitally important field, orthopaedic surgeons command a lot of respect when they call for more awareness,” said AAOS President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD. “This bill will increase awareness of musculoskeletal health issues and provide the opportunity for the AAOS to serve as an authoritative source of knowledge and leadership.”

Nine “titles”
The legislation includes nine titles (sections): Congressional findings, trauma and rehabilitation, musculoskeletal research, women’s health, aging and seniors, pediatric orthopaedics, orthopaedic workforce and training, quality and safety, and healthy America.

It requires reports to Congress, issued by various government agencies, analyzing the extent to which musculoskeletal research is being funded. The reports must also include data on the number of new investigators entering the research field and identification of existing trauma care initiatives to enhance cooperation across federal agencies.

The bill urges the Office of Minority Health to consider musculoskeletal diseases and conditions as an additional health priority.

The legislation also requires the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to issue recommendations for a standard cost-effective modality for measuring bone density. In addition, the legislation promotes bone health initiatives among adolescent girls through the Office of Women’s Health.

To improve the treatment and management of musculoskeletal disease and to reduce the disease burden and injury among children and the elderly, the bill would require the government to continue providing assistance to state health agencies interested in establishing or expanding current health and aging activities and to conduct a sustained national musculoskeletal disease public awareness campaign and health professional education campaign, with an emphasis on reaching underserved populations.

Seeking cosponsors
NOLC participants attended briefings on the particulars of the AAOS Act, and for the first time, were given a laminated fact sheet for their own use. Since the legislation had been introduced in the House in February 2009 by Congressmen Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Gene Green (D-Texas), NOLC participants urged their House representatives to support and cosponsor the bill (HR-2010). At the conclusion of their meetings, NOLC participants gave lawmakers “leave-behind” fact sheets on the legislation.

“This is an important piece of legislation for the orthopaedic surgeon community, and having surgeons directly lobbying Congress goes a long way toward influencing Congress to see the need for the AAOS Act,” said Peter J. Mandell, MD, chair of the AAOS Council on Advocacy.

The AAOS Act would be a valuable tool for treating and preventing musculoskeletal conditions. More than one in four individuals has a musculoskeletal condition that requires medical attention. As a result, bone and joint healthcare costs total $849 billion annually. This legislation raises awareness for the issues surrounding the need for musculoskeletal care and addresses the underlying issues of improving the quality and efficiency of care.

View the AAOS Act bill (PDF)

Nick Piatek is the communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. He can be reached at piatek@aaos.org