AVMA Lauds U.S. House Passage of Public Health Act; Urges Senate Action

Mar 09, 2011, 17:23 ET from American Veterinary Medical Association

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., March 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Veterinary Public Health Amendments Act (H.R. 525) on March 8. The measure now goes to the Senate.

This legislation, authored by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), will help combat a shortage of veterinarians in public health positions. These doctors have unique training that qualifies them to identify, diagnose, control and monitor diseases transmitted from animals to humans.

"There is a shortage of veterinarians in public health, and that's unfortunate because veterinarians play a key role in public health," says Dr. Larry Kornegay, president of the AVMA. "Over the past 25 years, 75 percent of all emerging diseases identified in people were zoonotic in nature, meaning they were diseases that spread from animals to humans.

H.R. 525 will help expand the veterinary public health workforce by offering veterinary school loan repayment for veterinarians who commit to serve in a federal, state, local, or tribal public health agency or who engage in a related training fellowship. The legislation also makes veterinary public health eligible for workforce grants.  These grants are awarded to help increase the number of individuals in the public health workforce, to enhance the quality of such workforce and to enhance the ability of the workforce to meet national, state, and local health care needs.

"Public health veterinarians are our frontline of defense against diseases transmitted from animals to humans. Their role was never clearer than during the 2009 H1N1 virus outbreak," Congresswoman Baldwin explains. "In recent years, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), monkeypox, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, avian influenza, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and chronic wasting disease have had a significant impact on public health, and veterinarians have played a vital role in protecting the public from these diseases.

"Public health veterinarians inspect our slaughterhouses, prevent foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks from devastating our economy and agricultural industry, and protect our citizens against the threat of bio-terrorism. It's vitally important that our veterinary workforce expand to meet rising health threats," Baldwin says.

A February 2009 report to Congress by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) noted that there is a growing shortage of veterinarians nationwide, particularly of veterinarians who care for animals raised for food, serve in rural communities, and with training in public health.

For more information about this legislation, please visit www.avma.org.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. More than 81,500 member veterinarians worldwide are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association