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The Sport Digest - ISSN: 1558-6448

Educators, Students Take Part in 'Cover the Uninsured Week 2005'

Washington, DC, April 12, 2005 - Students, faculty, and administrators of medical, nursing, dental, and public health schools are working together outside of the classroom to organize events on campuses across the country, designed to tell our nation’s leaders that health coverage for all must be their priority.

These nationwide events are being held before, during, and after Cover the Uninsured Week, May 1-8, 2005. The Week is the largest nonpartisan effort in history to raise awareness about the growing number of Americans who live without health insurance of any kind.

"As future physicians, we have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of the millions of uninsured people in this country," said Brian Palmer, M.D., national president of the American Medical Student Association. "Students are in a unique position to discuss the future of health care in America. We hope that by participating in Cover the Uninsured Week, students can help persuade our nation’s leaders to make affordable and reliable health care coverage a top priority."

National student groups organizing the effort include the American Medical Student Association, American Medical Association-Medical Student Section, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of Schools of Public Health, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the Association of Academic Health Centers.

"Cover the Uninsured Week provides students with the opportunity to learn about the clinical and ethical challenges that health professionals confront when providing care to people who have no health coverage. As the number of uninsured people in this country continues to increase, health care providers see more and more people who do not have insurance," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and C.E.O. of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the lead sponsor of Cover the Uninsured Week. "Providing affordable, consistent care for uninsured patients is not taught in any medical textbooks. These are patients who may not be able to fill the prescription that will keep them healthy, or make a crucial appointment with a medical specialist. We are grateful that today’s medical students and their teachers are using their energy and activism to plan activities that help get out the word that every man, woman, and child in America must have health care coverage. "

Campus events being planned include candlelight vigils on behalf of the uninsured; classroom discussions of the issues related to access to health care and health insurance; forums at which uninsured individuals will talk about their experiences; and panel discussions featuring students, faculty, and high-profile guest speakers discussing the challenges facing our nation’s health care system. In addition, students will demonstrate their support of health care coverage for all by hosting health care clinics, and supporting efforts to enroll eligible children and adults in public health insurance programs, such as Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Some of the events taking place on campuses include:

Students at the University of Minnesota will participate in discussions about various health care reform proposals affecting Minnesota residents. They will also help enroll eligible children in SCHIP during a health fair on May 9.

On April 20, students from the College of Human Medicine in East Lansing, Mich., will participate in a health care rally on the steps of the state capital. The rally is designed to educate individuals on the current health care system and to discuss various options for reform. Speakers will include Michigan’s Surgeon General, and more than 30 health care organizations will host booths at the rally, offering health screenings and information on health programs.

At the University of South Florida in Tampa, students from the Colleges of Medicine and Public Health will hold a physicians’ panel on May 23 to discuss the importance of providing care to the uninsured and the consequences of not having coverage. Throughout the month of May, students will provide weekend medical screenings to uninsured children entering summer sports programs.

Co-chaired by Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, the nonpartisan Cover the Uninsured Week effort is endorsed by nine former U.S. Surgeons General and U.S. Secretaries of Health and Human Services. Noah Wyle, star of the popular television series "ER," is serving as the national spokesperson for the campaign.

The most recent government figures show that 45 million Americans do not have health care coverage, including 8 million children. Studies show that uninsured Americans delay medical care, even when it is needed. Uninsured women with breast cancer have a 30 to 50 percent higher risk of dying than women with health insurance, while patients with colorectal cancer are about 50 percent more likely to die than patients with insurance. The nonpartisan Institute of Medicine estimates that 18,000 adults in America die each year because they are uninsured.

In addition to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Cover the Uninsured Week is being organized by a diverse group of organizations representing some of the most influential organizations in the United States, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Leadership Council, American Medical Association, National Medical Association, American Nurses Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA, AARP, The United Way of America, National Council of La Raza, The California Endowment, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

A complete listing of campus events being planned around the country, along with information and materials for students and others who want to learn more about health coverage in America, is available at http://www.covertheuninsuredweek.org.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Cobb (202) 745-5054 or Patrick McCabe (202) 745-5100.