Gov. John Baldacci this evening will be given the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service at the annual National Advocacy Conference of the American Medical Association in Washington, D.C.
Baldacci is one of nine award recipients selected this year from elected and career government officials at the federal, state and municipal levels. The award, named in honor of the AMA’s founder, recognizes public servants who have promoted the advancement of medicine and public health.
“Gov. Baldacci has truly improved the health of the people of Maine with the creation of the Dirigo Health Agency,” the AMA’s board chairwoman, Dr. Rebecca Patch, said in a prepared statement Monday. “He has also led the effort to improve and enhance Maine’s public health infrastructure and recently unveiled a universal wellness initiative.”
Baldacci was nominated for this year’s award by the Maine Medical Association, which represents physicians and other health care providers in Maine.
The Dirigo Health Agency, established early in Baldacci’s first term in office, oversees the contentious DirigoChoice subsidized health insurance program as well as the Maine Quality Forum, which collects, analyzes and makes public the quality of medical services delivered through Maine’s 39 acute-care hospitals.
Baldacci also has overseen a recent expansion of the state’s public health system into eight centrally administered districts. Each district is charged with working with regional health care providers and other groups to assess public health status and develop appropriate strategies to combat problems such as obesity and substance abuse and help improve the prevention and management of chronic diseases.
In January, Baldacci rolled out the free KeepMeWell online program aimed at helping Maine people assess and improve their own health status and find needed health care services.
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Baldacci said the Dirigo Health Agency serves a vital function and should be maintained by future Blaine House administrations. While there is no doubt room for improvement, he said, the DirigoChoice insurance program should be expanded, at least until significant health care reform is enacted at the federal level. The program now covers about 10,000 Mainers, many of whom are self-employed or working in small businesses, and an additional 4,500 parents whose youngsters are enrolled in the MaineCare program and who would otherwise lack coverage.
Baldacci credited others in his administration for their efforts to improve the health of Mainers, including Trish Riley, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance; Brenda Harvey, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Center for Dis-ease Control and Prevention. Nonprofit organizations with a focus on public health, such as the Maine chapter of the American Lung Association, also are key players, he said. And the Maine Medical Association has worked hard to support public policy that keeps medical decision-making in the hands of health care providers and their patients, he said.
Baldacci’s award will be presented by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor for NBC News.
In 2007, Mills was a recipient of the Dr. Nathan Davis Award. Mills specifically was recognized for Maine’s strong efforts to combat tobacco use and for her aggressive planning for a then-speculative worldwide influenza outbreak. That planning paid off last year when the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak swept around the globe, including Maine.
On the Web: www.ama-assn.org