June 23, 1998
Contact: Ann Marie Owens
The Families and Health Conference showed that families, including children, will go to incredible lengths to be included in the health care of their loved ones, Vice President Al Gore said at the conclusion of Family Re-Union 7, held June 22-23 at Vanderbilt University.
Panelists during the second day of the annual policy conference included Stephanie Pena, a ninth-grade girl who has raised public awareness about families and children affected by AIDS. Her mother died from AIDS when Pena was 10 years old. Also speaking about the importance of family-centered care was Jon Wagner-Holtz, the teen-age founder of a national corporation that provides support services for children who have a parent with cancer.
This year's conference, which was moderated by the Vice President and his wife, Tipper, explored the effects of a rapidly changing health care environment on the complex and changing needs of families and children.
Surgeon General David Satcher helped lead a discussion called "Health Starts with Families." He emphasized the importance of behavior in determining health, noting that more than half of the deaths in 1990 could be attributed to smoking, alcoholism, violence and other human actions.
The Vice President announced a new directive to make the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program more family-friendly, while Tipper Gore launched a new public-private partnership to help families cope with serious mental and physical illness.
"Family-centered care acknowledges that the fundamental health care provider in America today is the family, and it is designed to unleash the healing power of the family," Gore said.
The Vice President expressed concern about the extent to which the current health care systems have left families "out in the cold" and, therefore, have hurt patient care. He pledged to work to implement a list of recommendations developed during a series of roundtables related to families and health.
Gore said that one of the challenges ahead would be providing financial access to health care for every single American.
He directed the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program to hold a series of meetings with families during the next year to identify ways that its health plans can be more responsive to the needs of families. The findings will be published in its 1999 annual call letter to insurers as a condition for participation in the program.
Tipper Gore has launched a network of public and private groups to work together to support children of seriously ill patients. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Cancer Institute will form a partnership to bring together researchers and service providers to help support children. During the conference she met with children and their families to talk about their experiences coping with their parents' illnesses and the effect of these illnesses on their children.
The Gores kept up a tradition at Family Re-Union by announcing the theme for next year's conference. The Vice President said the 1999 conference will explore health care, education and other previous Family Re-Union topics in the context of families and communities.
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 http://www.vanderbilt.edu/News.