HHS Releases Action Plan to Prevent HAIs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveiled its action plan on Monday to reduce and possibly eliminate health care-acquired infections (HAIs), which rank among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. The plan says that CDC has estimated 1.7 million HAIs and 99,000 associated deaths occurred in 2002 alone. HAIs are estimated to cost nearly $20 billion in excess health costs annually, it states.

The plan includes seven five-year targets, one of which is a 50 percent reduction in the incidence rate for health care-associated MRSA infections. Soon the agency will announce dates and locations of public meetings about the plan. Comments on it should be sent by Feb. 6 to HAIComments@hhs.gov.

"This plan will serve as our roadmap on how the department addresses this important public health and patient safety issue," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "This collaborative interagency plan will help the nation build a safer, more affordable health care system."

Along with MRSA, the targeted areas are central line-associated bloodstream infections, a 30 percent reduction in the case rate of Clostridium difficile infections, a 25 percent reduction in catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and a lower rate of surgical site infections with 95 percent adherence rates for Surgical Care Improvement Project/National Quality Forum infection process measures. To read the entire plan and for hearing details, visit this site.

The plan says resource allocation and workforce development challenges remain, and new methods must be developed for collecting and evaluating data on HAIs. "National efforts to both measure and improve antimicrobial use are needed. These efforts should have a major impact on prevention efforts," it says.

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