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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to establish a set of five year prevention targets to reduce health care-associated infections (HAIs). HHS is also hoping to possibly eliminate HAIs with this prevention plan.

The plan lists several areas in which HAIs can be prevented. Additionally, it outlines cross-agency efforts to reduce health care costs and save lives.

What are HAIs?

Health care-associated infections are those infections patients can get while undergoing surgical procedures or medical treatment. HHS says that HAIs are very much preventable.

Mike Leavitt, HHS Secretary said, “This plan will serve as our roadmap on how the department addresses this important public health and patient safety issue.”

The action plan also names opportunities “for collaboration with national, state, tribunal and local organizations.”

Check out the plan and instructions for submitting any comments on this plan here.

The cost of treating HAIs is enormous and also takes a “tremendous toll on human life.” The center for Disease Control and Prevention made an estimate that about 1.7 million HAIs occurred in hospitals in 2002 in the U.S. and were associated with about 99,000 deaths. They also estimate that HAIs add about 20 billion dollars to healthcare costs each year.

HHS is welcoming comments from the public on the new action plan in order to strengthen and share opportunities. They plan on holding meetings in the spring of this year. Check out the HHS website to keep posted.

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