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Aspen Health Stewardship Project Provides Means for Presidential Candidates to Reframe Health Care Reform

Bipartisan leaders release principles and questionnaire, discuss why access is not enough

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Shifting the focus of health care reform to the root causes of the broken system, The Aspen Institute Health Stewardship Project today released its core principles and a related questionnaire designed to better evaluate the proposed reform policies of presidential candidates and policymakers.

Speaking at the National Press Club, the project co-chairs urged candidates, policymakers and the public to use the principles and questions as a means to identify and address what truly ails the nation's health care system.

"Access is not enough," Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and project co-chair, said of the current debate. "We must have a multi-dimensional dialogue and focus on the long-term, fundamental issues that will need to be considered if we are to truly transform our health care system."

Launched this past fall, the project is an initiative by the Aspen Institute to reframe and broaden the national dialogue on health care reform leading up to the 2008 presidential election and beyond. Consistent with the institute's history and ideals, the project has convened a bipartisan group of thought leaders to inform the nation's efforts to transform health care.

Project co-chair Mark Ganz, president and CEO of Regence BlueCross BlueShield, said that charting the most effective course for health care reform requires that the United States acknowledge and address the system's cultural barriers, some of which protect the status quo at the expense of patients.

"Health care delivery must be reorganized and prioritized to suit patients, not the industry," Ganz said. "Only by shifting the culture of control underlying our health care system can we make meaningful progress toward a system that is affordable, sustainable and delivers quality health care to every American."

The project is chaired by Gov. Whitman, Ganz and Joe Hogan, president and CEO of GE Healthcare. In addition to the co-chairs, the project features a 10-person advisory board, including doctors, scholars, health policy experts and information technology leaders. The project also is supported by a team of faculty researchers from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

An important part of successful reform also includes a shift within the United States to an emphasis on early health as opposed to focusing on the treatment of late-stage disease, Hogan said.

"Reforms must address medical errors, inefficiencies and the tendency to focus on treatment of late disease," Hogan said. "All of these problems will only get worse if the focus remains exclusively on universal access to the health care system without other change initiatives."

The project will provide the principles and questions to the presidential candidates in the coming days and ask them to respond within one month. The responses will be published on the project's Web site and shared in other public forums, including at the Aspen Health Forum.

"The Aspen Health Stewardship Project seeks to encourage Americans to approach our nation's shared health resources in the same way that people prioritize stewardship of the environment," said Dr. Michelle McMurry, project director. "The stewardship project picks up where the access debate leaves off and aims to give Americans a fresh perspective and the tools they need to take charge of their own health."

The project's core principles and questions to the candidates are available on the project Web site,

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership programs in Africa, Central America and India.

SOURCE The Aspen Institute
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