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Executive Summary

The Democratic presidential campaign is forming a "National Health Policy Council" to coordinate activities of health professionals supporting the Dukakis candidacy. The group held an organizational meeting Sept. 8 in Washington, D.C. At a press conference prior to the session, early members of the Dukakis health group met with the Washington press. Chairing the council is Steve Gleason, a Massachusetts physician. The campaign said the council will coordinate activities of the approximately 3,000 health professionals who have already endorsed Dukakis. Another key member is David Blumenthal, Dukakis' senior health policy advisor. Blumenthal is vice chairman of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Also appearing at the Sept. 8 press conference in support of Dukakis were: Anthony Robbins, Boston University public health professor, who has previously served as an aide to Rep. Dingell (D-Mich.), as health commissioner of Vermont and Colorado and as president of the American Public Health Association; Irwin Redliner, a pediatrician at Cornell University and director of outreach health services for homeless children; Eula Bingham, University of Cincinnati environmental health professor and former director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; and Harvey Sloan, a physician, judge and former mayor of Louisville, Kentucky. Three other physicians were also named as part of the campaign. They are Victor Sidel, also a past president of the American Public Health Association; Robert Haggerty, previously president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and president of the William T. Grant Foundation; and Barbara Boardman, of Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Boston. Several participants, including Robbins, Bingham, and Sloan, cited Dukakis' initiative as governor to establish a statewide system of health coverage for uninsured persons as one example of why the Massachusetts governor drew their support. Robbins criticized the Reagan Administration's "conscious decision" not to increase funding for AIDS early in the epidemic of the disease or shift money from other health programs. He also charged Bush with the effort to withdraw nursing home oversight regulations, through the Vice President's role as the head of the council on regulatory reform. Both Sloan and Bingham are members of an Institute of Medicine advisory group examining the future of public health. The IoM panel just issued its final report, concluding that the public health system has lost its "institutional focus." Part of the impetus for the Dukakis press conference was to draw attention to the IoM report and try to make health policy a national campaign issue. Redliner maintained, "when it comes to the big problems in society, the role of the federal government is to be a partner. And what's happening here is the bigger the problem (that is in health), the more the federal government over the last eight years has disappeared from being part of the solution."

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