Contact: Jamie L. Reeves



Family Re-Union focuses on the well-being of the family

by Jamie Lawson Reeves

Nashville, TN--Family-centered health care for all generations that treats patients like people, not numbers was the focus of Family Re-Union 7 at Vanderbilt University June 22-23.

Vice President Al Gore kicked off the conference with remarks to conference participants - approximately 1,000 consumers, physicians, nurses, insurers, professors, hospital administrators and others in the health care system.

With the population growing older and living longer, families are dealing with health issues even more, Gore said. "Those of us in the baby boom generation are the first generation to have more parents than children, and many of us care for both parents and children. More than 90 percent of chronically disabled elderly people receive informal care from family members and loved ones," he said.

Five steps are needed to maximize the healing power of families in the health care system - "SMART," which stands for support, measure, ask, respect and train, Gore said.

Gore announced initiatives giving families more access to health care information including:a Web site,, that will help families understand new Medicare options and services in their communities; a nationwide public/private Medicare alliance that will reach out to communities to inform them of new options, preventive benefits and consumer protections available through Medicare.

President Clinton began his remarks by speaking about the tobacco issue and the recent tobacco bill derailment, reminding conference goers of the importance of grass-roots networks.

"I don't think you should let this Congress go home, if you can stop it, without acting on these measures and taking care of our families and our future," he said.

Ensuring that Social Security and Medicare will be reformed are among our nation's biggest challenges, said President Clinton. And along with growing the economy, developing the best education system in the world and bringing enterprise to all communities, the President noted that health care should be a priority.

"Why? Because we have the finest health care in the world, but we still can't figure out how to give everybody access to it in a quality affordable way," Clinton said.

At the end of the opening session, Clinton signed an executive memorandum which enables eight federal agencies - from the Social Security Administration to the Department of Health and Human Services -to seek out four million children who are eligible for government health care but aren't enrolled.

Tipper Gore emphasized the importance of addressing and destigmatizing mental health care, particularly for children.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that in addition to Clinton and Gore's battle against the tobacco lobby, the passage of the Patient's Bill of Rights is another step toward ensuring the health and well-being of families. The document would guarantee access to health care specialists and emergency services and create a grievance and appeals process so that consumers can resolve their differences with health plans and health care providers.

She also announced that she and Tipper Gore will be working together to promote Medicare's new coverage of tests to detect osteoporosis.

"We want to be sure that all of us take what we learn from this conference back to the hospitals, the community centers, the neighborhood health clinics, the advocacy groups - everyone who is represented here - and make sure that all of us know that fighting for health care, making sure it is family-centered, is not a luxury, it's not something that we can wait to do, but it is critical to how we define health care gong into the 21st century.

The Seventh Annual Family-Re-Union Conference was sponsored by The Children, Youth & Family Consortium at the University of Minnesota and the Child and Family Policy Center at the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies.

Other related stories:

Tipper Gore speaks about effects of mental and behavioral illnesses on families

Vice President and Tipper Gore call for family-centered health care


Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at

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Document updated June 23, 1998.