Add Your Infection Prevention Talent to a Meaningful Mission

As this volume of Infection Control Today goes to press, readers may be interested in several events concerning the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA). SHEA’s 19th annual scientific meeting was held March 19-22 in San Diego. Despite tough economic conditions, this meeting was one of the best yet. We experienced an unprecedented number of abstract submissions and registration to date is on pace to set an attendance record. The tremendous interest in the meeting reflects the increased realization of the importance of healthcare-associated infections in terms of morbidity, mortality, and excess economic costs. The SHEA annual meeting helped attendees to integrate cutting-edge science, cost-containment, threats from new and multidrug-resistant pathogens, and local and national regulatory issues into daily practice.

If you were not able attend the annual meeting, I hope you will consider membership in SHEA. In recent years, SHEA has made an effort to broaden our membership profile in order to better reflect and include the broad background and experience necessary to confront such issues as healthcare-associated infections, antimicrobial resistance, and other critical issues in healthcare epidemiology. Membership in SHEA is a real bargain. Full information is available at the SHEA Web site at www.shea-online.org.

As you may know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “stimulus bill,” was signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009. Within the nearly $800 billion plan is $50 million to be distributed to the states for reduction in healthcare-associated infections. SHEA is advocating that the money be spent on education and training programs, implementation of evidence-based practices, and broad-based preventative measures. In addition, approximately $10 billion will be allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and lesser amounts to the Association for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). SHEA is formulating research priorities which will hopefully help drive the agenda and direct monies to healthcare epidemiology training programs and research efforts directed toward better understanding, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of healthcare-associated infections.

All indicators point toward the Obama Administration supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections. SHEA presented a formal response to the draft action plan at the February meeting of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC) and has posted comments on our Web site at www.shea-online.org. Briefly, SHEA supports a coordinated effort by key governmental agencies to address this national priority. SHEA offered detailed and specific suggestions for how to strengthen the plan.

In summary, since my last column in Infection Control Today, SHEA has been busy doing what SHEA does best, promoting the application of the science of healthcare epidemiology and infection control to pressing problems in our healthcare system. Please consider adding your own talent to assist in this very meaningful mission.

Mark E. Rupp, MD, is president of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and director of the Department of Healthcare Epidemiology.

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