The American Medical Association on Monday took a stand against two unhealthy habits — eating foods made with artificial trans fats and text-messaging while driving.
At its semiannual policy meeting, the nation's largest physicians' group agreed to support any state and federal efforts to ban the use of artificial trans fats in U.S. restaurants and bakeries. And it agreed to lobby for more state legislation banning text-messaging while driving or operating machinery.
Several cities and fast-food chains already have shunned trans fats, which can increase artery-clogging of "bad" cholesterol, and decrease levels of "good" cholesterol.
Numerous bans on texting while driving also are in effect.
Delegates at the meeting in Orlando, Fla., also rejected establishing ethical guidelines for hospitals and doctors offices that use "secret shopper" patients. Many hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices hire these fake patients to evaluate things like waiting times, staff behavior and even doctors' bedside manner.
Opponents called the practice devious and unethical.
The measure was first proposed at an AMA meeting in Chicago in June but was referred for a vote at the Orlando meeting.
In their adopted resolution, the delegates called trans fats "one of the most dangerous fats" Americans consume.
"By supporting a ban on the use of artificial trans fats in restaurants and bakeries, we can help improve the quality of the food Americans eat and may ultimately save lives," Dr. Mary Anne McCaffree, an AMA board member, said in a statement.
The Chicago-based AMA's vote on text-messaging follows a warning earlier this year from the American College of Emergency Physicians, which said its members had seen severe injuries and even deaths linked to texting while driving.
Several states and cities have adopted bans on texting while driving, and meeting delegates agreed that the AMA should lobby for more laws.
AMA board member Dr. Peter Carmel said in a statement that a recent study showed that texting while driving "causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with eyes off the road. No one should have to worry that other drivers are focused on texting instead of traffic."
Under the new policy, the AMA also will encourage doctors to educate patients about the risks of texting while driving.
In other action at the meeting, the AMA adopted policies to:
• Encourage doctors to practice in underserved communities. The measure urges increased government and private scholarships, loan repayment programs, visa waiver programs and tax credits for medical students who agree to practice in needy areas.
• Increase the number of primary-care physicians. The AMA will support programs to decrease the debt of physicians who choose to practice primary care, including scholarships and loan repayment plans.
• Encourage doctors to take a stronger role in promoting "green" polices to fight global warming. The policy acknowledges that extreme weather and temperature changes could lead to heat-related illnesses and increases in infectious diseases and respiratory problems.