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MMA Works For A Healthy Minnesota

  • Article by: Laura French
  • Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • September 9, 2009 - 1:33 PM

Healthcare reform is a hot topic in the national media these days. In Minnesota, reform is already underway, thanks in part to the efforts of the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA). The organization, whose members include more than 10,600 Minnesota physicians, drafted the "Physicians' Plan for a Healthy Minnesota" in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, MMA's recommendations were submitted to a group called "Healthy Minnesota," consisting of physicians, state senators, state legislators, CEOs of health plan organizations and representatives from business and labor (www.healthyminnesota.org). That group's recommendations had a "strong impact" on 2008 legislation, according to MMA's president, Dr. Noel Peterson.

Essential Services For All

Among the recommendations of the MMA:

o Health coverage for all Minnesotans through a mixture of private insurance and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, with subsidies for people who can't afford coverage.

o Coverage of "essential services" including some preventive care.

o Creating "Health Care Homes" - a doctor or clinic that is patient's central contact for medical advice and support. "This is important for preventive care, but it's even more important for the `Big Five,'" Peterson says. "Coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma and depression account for more than 50 percent of all medical costs."

Support For Public Health

Prior to its healthcare reform effort, the MMA had led the initiative for smoke-free workplaces in Minnesota, including restaurants and bars. Since its founding in 1853, the MMA has supported many public health programs, like clean water and food safety that have improved the lives of Minnesotans. Smoking and obesity are current public health issues that deserve attention, Peterson says.

In addition to being a powerful advocate on healthcare issues at the State Capitol, the MMA provides up-to-date information about events affecting medicine in Minnesota, offers products and services that save time and money, and provides education for physicians and their clinic staff. The MMA also publishes Minnesota Medicine, which has been the area's preeminent regional medical journal since 1918 and is read by physicians and medical students, hospital and clinic administrators, and other area healthcare leaders. It is a cross between a magazine and a medical journal.

The MMA offers "lots of opportunities for involvement," Peterson says. His own path, after coming to the Olmsted Medical Center in 1989, began with participation in the MMA House of Delegates, an annual meeting of members from around the state who "set the direction for the organization," he says. By 1994, Peterson had become a member of the MMA's Board of Trustees, the group that works to implement the House of Delegate's directions. He became a member of the Administration and Finance Committee, then treasurer. Peterson returned to the Board of Trustees in 2005 and, in 2008, he was elected president.

He will continue to practice urology when his term as president is done, but, he says, "I plan to have just one job instead of two. I really like the practice of medicine. It is an incredible privilege to be a physician." Through his years in MMA leadership, Peterson says, he was able to make an impact on medicine that is broader than his own practice. "At least for me, it's important to do something about things that you think could be better, rather than just complaining about them," Peterson says.

For more information on the Minnesota Medical Association, visit its website at www.mmaonline.org.


Laura French is a principal of Words Into Action, Inc., and is a freelance writer from Roseville.

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