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Public Health Initiatives

When the Chicago Medical Society (CMS) was founded in 1850, the organization had two chief missions: educating physicians and enhancing public health. In the very first year, CMS advocated for basic sanitation systems in the city to help control the spread of communicable diseases. By 1855, CMS empowered doctors to post quarantine signs in the homes of smallpox victims. CMS physicians worked directly with factories and slaughterhouses to minimize work-related injuries. In fact, enhancing public health continues as one of the primary missions of CMS. The Public Health Committee, chaired by Ajay Chauhan, DO, remains one of the most active CMS committees. Several public health initiatives are currently underway.

Among our recent projects is the CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) program coordinated by CMS Trustee Vemuri Murthy, MD, working with the American Heart Association. The drive to teach “hands-only” CPR to the public has been well received, with several hundred individuals being trained. Hands-only allows participants to avoid the perceived risks of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

CMS is also a partner in Project SMILE (Saving More Illinois Lives through Education), a coalition to raise CPR awareness and instruct individuals throughout the state.

CPR courses for physicians include Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification, and are provided at the CMS building. Attendance continues to increase. Legislators, too, have expressed interest in learning CPR; efforts are underway to equip them with this basic life skill.

Energy Drinks
As CMS President in early 2013, Howard Axe, MD, spearheaded an awareness campaign to spotlight the dangers of energy drinks. These highly caffeinated products may increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias. The effects are especially prevalent in children and adolescents, to whom the products are marketed. CMS passed resolutions calling for restrictions on energy drink sales to minors.

Dr. Axe testified before the City of Chicago Finance Committee on March 5, outlining the potential adverse effects and real-life case examples. Apparently, Dr. Axe was ahead of the curve. On April 11, the FDA issued a harsh warning against energy drinks containing the stimulant dimethylamylamine (DMMA).

Current Projects
CMS has worked with Neelum Aggarwal, MD, to increase awareness of Cook County's Primary Stroke Centers. Dr. Aggarwal coordinates the public health section in Chicago Medicine.

The CMS Council adopted policy on Sept. 10, supporting the implementation of outdoor adult playgrounds to promote physical activity and decrease health risks. Ald. Michele Smith has introduced such legislation to the City Council, and hopes to establish the first Chicago playground in her Lincoln Park ward.

Founded by then-U.S. Asst. Surgeon General, James Galloway, MD, Building a Healthier Chicago is a coalition of groups that promote healthier living. CMS has been a coalition member since 2008 and joined the executive team in 2012.

The health insurance exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) opened on Oct. 1, 2013. CMS provides webinars and speakers on various aspects of the ACA roll-out. Educating physicians about the ACA will be a major educational drive for CMS in the coming year.

Since its humble origins 163 years ago, CMS has been committed to the advancement of public health. The issue at hand may be smallpox quarantine or ACA roll-out, but the focus on public health remains the same.

Robert W. Panton, MD
President, Chicago Medical Society

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