December 1999, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the Federation
of Practice-Based Research Networks (FPBRN) introduced AAFP's new initiative,
the National Network for Family Practice and Primary Care Research.
The Network was created to enhance primary care practice research by increasing the nation's pool of family physician researchers and by stimulating funding to achieve this objective. AAFP believes that a stronger link between medical research and the family physician's office will improve patients' health care and health status.
The initiative also included the formal absorption of the Ambulatory Sentinel Practice Network (ASPN), which had conducted practice-based research for two decades during the 1980's and 1990's.
The AAFP mission for its new initiative is to "conduct, support, promote and advocate primary care research in practice-based settings that (1) addresses questions of importance to the discipline of family medicine, and (2) improves the health care delivery to and health status of patients, their families and communities." The AAFP Board gives high priority to office-based research and efforts to expose family physicians to the importance of research and will provide technical support and advocacy.
At the beginning of 2000, there were 16 PBRNs in the U.S. affiliated with FPBRN and four international affiliates. The only one located in the South was a regional network in south Texas. The UAB Department of Family and Community Medicine and its Division of Research established as a priority the preparation of a statewide network in Alabama, ready to participate as AAFP unfolded its program.
A pilot study to investigate the interest of the state's physicians in participating in such an endeavor was supported 1999-2000 by the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board (FPRHB). The results of this study formed the rationale for the establishment of a formal network. This organizational effort was supported by funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded to enhance the Department's research capacity (2000-2003).
APBRN held its first formal organizational meeting on December 8, 2000 in Birmingham with 19 present (12 physicians and 7 investigators and staff). A survey was conducted among the physicians to determine their research interests and training needs. Plans for use of PDAs as data collection devices were discussed, along with progress on the network's web site (www.APBRN.net).
Member meetings are held in June and December, in conjunction with the annual meetings of the Alabama Academy of Family Physicians. Between
meetings, business is conducted by an email listserve and through the web
Initial Press Release
(from The SCOPE of Family Practice, January 2000).
Alabama Family Physicians Plan Practice-Based Research
The UAB Department of Family and Community Medicine is putting a plan in motion
to create a practice-based research network (PBRN) of Alabama family practice
physicians. This PBRN will specifically promote the growth and development of
clinical investigation in the practices of rural physicians. In December 1999,
the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the Federation of
Practice-Based Research Networks (FPBRN) held a convocation on practice-based
research. One goal was to introduce AAFPs new initiative, the National Network
for Family Practice and Primary Care Research, which has been created to enhance
family practice research by increasing the nationís pool of family physician
researchers and by stimulating research funding to achieve this goal. The
initiative also included the absorption of the Ambulatory Sentinel Practice
Network (ASPN), which has conducted practice-based research for the past two
decades. The AFP believes that a stronger link between medical research and the
family physicians office will improve the health care and health status of
patients, families and communities. The new initiative will also "support,
promote and advocate primary care research in practice-based settings that
addresses questions of importance to the discipline of family medicine." The
action has been taken to give high priority to office-based research and efforts
to expose family physicians to the importance of research. At present, there are
16 PBRNs in the U.S. affiliated with FPBRN. Only two are located in the South,
both in Texas. FPBRN also has four international affiliates. "Alabama has a
sentinel opportunity to develop such a network, as a natural outgrowth of a
project being conducted at UAB that is currently funded by the Alabama Family
Practice Rural Health Board (FPRHB)," says T. Michael Harrington, MD, UAB
department chair and Alabama AFP president. "Activities of a PBRN would support
the opportunities for practitioners, academicians, residents and medical
students who could work with the onsite research project in preceptors'
offices," says Harrington. "Retention and recruitment of physicians, especially
into more remote settings, could be enhanced through the opportunities offered
by PBRN participation in research studies and the intellectual stimulation that
can be achieved through participation in such efforts." The establishment of a
PBRN would add to the knowledge base needed to answer questions of critical
importance to the daily practices of family physicians and would bring
recognition to the state's family physicians in ways not currently open to most
of them. "We anticipate bringing this idea before the Alabama AFP membership at
the June scientific assembly," say Harrington. "At that time, we will assess the
general interest of the membership in the concept. We will also identify the
subjects of interest occurring in practice that need to be investigated. UAB
would serve as the operational base of the PBRN, maintaining communication among
member physicians and providing the research project's technical support. This
would include creating and maintaining a web site for the PBRN."