Member expertise informs AMA policy
One query often received in the secretariat of the AMA is about how AMA policy is formulated. This question has arisen recently following the change in the leadership of the AMA with the election of Dr Gannon as President and Dr Bartone as Vice President, prompting people to ask whether the leadership change affects AMA policies.
There is a substantial process to the development of AMA policy which evolves within the councils, committees and working groups of the AMA Federal Council, often in response to current issues.
The deliberations of the councils, committees and working groups are informed by background research and advice from the secretariat and, increasingly, from expert advice available from AMA members.
Under the AMA’s Constitution, the Federal Council is vested with responsibility for the organisation’s medico-political policy. It is the Position Statements and policies approved by Federal Council that inform the public comments of elected AMA leaders.
The work of Federal Council is far-reaching, covering policies as diverse as health financing and economics; medical workforce; medical practice; and training. This is in addition to the specific agendas of the five major councils of Federal Council.
The policy considerations reflect the objects of the AMA as set out in its Constitution – to look after the interests of the members of the AMA across all facets of their lives, to promote the wellbeing of patients, take an active part in the promotion of health care programs for the benefit of the community, and participate in the resolution of major social and community health issues.
The second objective, in particular, ensures that the AMA addresses many public health issues that affect patients and the communities in which they live.
Public health issues currently under review by working groups of Federal Council cover a wide range of subject areas including addiction, firearms, obesity, foetal alcohol syndrome disorder, blood borne viruses, and rheumatic heart disease.
The Position Statements that are developed by the working groups and finalised by Federal Council serve to inform members and the public at large, as well as to guide the AMA’s advocacy.
From time to time Federal Council also considers policies developed by the World Medical Association, of which the AMA is a member. WMA considers its policies at the twice-yearly meetings of its Council and annual meeting of its General Assembly.
Among current areas of work are consideration of medical tourism, the use of bio-banks, obesity in children, boxing, and medical cannabis.
The AMA draws on its own policies and Position Statements to inform its input into WMA policies.
With increased use of working groups, the Federal Council has been able to draw on the expertise of members who may not sit on the Council, but who have substantial specialised knowledge to contribute. Over coming months, members will be invited to indicate areas of special interest which will be recorded in the member database. This will assist to identify members with interests in specific areas of AMA advocacy for future communications.