Forging Ahead Into the New Health Care Frontier
As the old Chinese proverb says, “may you live in interesting times,” and we are! In our current environment, there is an even more urgent need to bridge the connection between scientific advances and outcomes for patients. Accordingly, medical societies need to change the model of how they develop and disseminate programs to their target audiences, or suffer extinction at the hand of those who think they know better. If one looks at the environment and evolution of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH) over the past 25 years, and especially the past 5 years, one sees maturity and growth in its focus on translational research in hypertension. The Society has survived internal turmoil and—like the Phoenix—has arisen from the ashes a stronger, more focused entity, poised for new challenges.
ASH intends to focus, grow, and enhance its paramount role in hypertension education and its commitment to the improvement of public health through education and enhancement of physician practices. This translates into building and improving an already existing infrastructure that supports dissemination of new information through its education programs, position papers, advocacy role for hypertension specialists and patients, hypertension community outreach initiative, and its two journals, The Journal of the American Society of Hypertension (JASH) and The Journal of Clinical Hypertension (JCH), along with its Web site, http://www.ash-us.org.
The model of the future ASH will be distinctly different from the past as the Society expands its target audiences. Specifically, in addition to researchers, clinicians, and hypertension specialists, the Society will welcome other hypertension health care providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants as well as create a forum for patients and the public-at-large on the Web site. It is the goal of the Society to ensure that those who are in a position to make decisions about the care of patients with hypertension are provided with the latest data, treatment strategies, and guidelines in the area.
This expanded education and information dissemination process will require the re-evaluation and renewal, as necessary, of ASH programs, from the Annual Scientific Meeting program structure to how the Society can enhance its already well-oiled mechanisms to disseminate information. The main meeting itself had new elements not previously seen and integrated new sources of funding and innovative ways to convey information.
Some of the coming changes discussed at the main May meeting will include the tradition of satellite symposia being supplanted by “Society Coordinated Symposia,” organized and designed by the ASH Committee on Education, presented within the meeting. This means no influence in any way from the funder. The content and speakers will be designated by appropriate Society committees and will be structured to meet the educational needs of Society target groups and will protect against bias. Last, funding support will be derived from a much wider variety of sources, not only the pharmaceutical industry but also the food, beverage, and nutrition industry, as well as other companies, with a commitment to improve the health of our country.
In addition to these changes, regional ASH meetings are proposed such that a day and a half program featuring “hypertension highlights” from the ASH Annual Scientific Meeting will subsequently be brought each year to 3, perhaps 4, different regions of the country. This will allow members and specialists who could not attend the main meeting to review and discuss critical information and new concepts needed to maintain the specialty status in hypertension.
We hope that these innovative changes in structure and information delivery along with an expanded structure of the society will encourage our current and soon-to-be members to become more active in the Society to help it grow.
Last, ASH recognized those whose achievements have improved public health and who have educated others in their communities to help achieve the goal of optimal blood pressure levels and cardiovascular risk reduction. Further, those who are educating the hypertension leaders of tomorrow and contributing to the public health efforts will be recognized as designated fellows or masters, as is the practice in other medical societies. These and many other changes will caress the ever-changing face of ASH for 2010 and beyond.