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  • Burwell Confirmed for HHS

    Sylvia Matthews Burwell, former director of the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has been confirmed by the Senate to take over as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Burwell replaces Kathleen Sebelius, who stepped down in April.

    Burwell was confirmed in a bipartisan vote of 78 to 17. In a Washington Post report on the confirmation, Sen Ron Wyden (D-Ore), whose committee nominated Burwell to the full Senate, is quoted as saying that Senate support was strong because "she really is that good, she really is that capable, and she really is that qualified."

    Before her role at OMB, Burwell, 48, worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wal-Mart Foundation, and in the administration of President Bill Clinton.

    PTs in the ED: New Resources Available

    A new set of resources on the APTA website can help physical therapists (PTs) make the case for the PT's role in an emergency department (ED) and gain a better understanding of the skills required to make that role effective.

    Developed by member experts in ED practice, the new tools are available on the association's Physical Therapist Practice in the Emergency Department webpage, and include information on getting started in the ED, billing and documentation, and resources that demonstrate the benefit of PT services in the ED. The resources were compiled in response to a 2012 House of Delegates directive to develop additional materials to support the role of PTs in the ED.

    APTA Practice Department staff members are continually enhancing website offerings and encourage members to contact them with ideas or suggestions for other toolkits or resources.

    PTs' Role in Joint Pain Management Highlighted in Letter to Editor

    A recent Harvard Medical School newsletter article on nonsurgical approaches to joint pain came up short on information about the physical therapist's (PT) role, and APTA weighed in to provide a more complete picture.

    The association released a letter to the editor responding to a May 29 healthbeat newsletter article titled "4 ways to put off joint replacement." The article listed weight loss, proper joint use, injections of steroids or other compounds, and pain reduction through NSAIDS, but made no mention of the ways in which a PT can help.

    "Your readers would have benefited by knowing that physical therapist services can provide a conservative, cost-effective, and evidence-based alternative for those affected by joint pain," writes letter author Emilio Rouco, APTA's director of public and media relations.

    Rouco continues by highlighting the ways PTs can increase strength, endurance, and function; how PTs can help patients manage pain; and the approaches PTs can use to prepare a patient for joint replacement surgery if nonsurgical approaches aren't working, as well as help the patient recover afterwards. "Physical therapists, who are experts in restoring and improving motion in people's lives, can help patients avoid surgery and its risk of complications in many instances," he writes on behalf of APTA.

    NIH Backs $4.5 Billion Brain Research Project

    A "moon shot initiative" to uncover the mysteries of brain function received significant support from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is recommending that the project be funded to the tune of $4.5 billion over the next 12 years.

    A federal report recently released by NIH states that the money will be necessary to fully implement the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The new federal funding would be released over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014, and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH's component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget.

    According to a news release from NIH, the initiative will focus on 7 major efforts: determining the roles of different brain cell types in health and disease, generating brain "circuit diagrams," producing a dynamic picture of brain function, linking brain activity and neural circuit dynamics to behavior, creating a framework for understanding mental processes, developing technologies to understand brain disorders, and integrating findings to discover "dynamic patterns of neural activity."

    "As the Human Genome Project did with precision medicine, the BRAIN Initiative promises to transform the way we prevent and treat devastating brain diseases and disorders while also spurring economic development," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. "While these estimates are provisional and subject to congressional appropriations, they represent a realistic estimate of what will be required for this moon shot initiative."