The Center for Medical Consumers, a non-profit 501(C)3 advocacy organization, was founded in 1976 with this philosophy: Whenever long-term drug therapy, elective surgery, or any other major treatment is prescribed, the question of whether the treatment has been proven safe and effective should be raised. And the prescribing physician should be expected to cite the relevant studies. We wanted people not only to ask such questions but to explore the answers they receive from their physicians. Our first step was to open a free medical library to give people access to the same medical journals, textbooks, and drug reference books that their doctors use to make treatment decisions. The library continued in operation for 26 years, closing in 2001 as use of the Internet became widespread.
In 1976, we began publishing a monthly newsletter called HealthFacts, which critically evaluated the latest major studies published in the world’s top medical journals. We have always confined our reporting to the most common medical decisions people must make, such as: Should I have a prostate-specific antigen screening test for prostate cancer? Should I take these blood pressure drugs for the rest of my life? Should I get a flu shot? Over the years, it became increasingly obvious that U.S. medical care is big business. Overtreatment, that is, the unnecessary use of tests, drugs, and surgical procedures, is the hallmark of America’s medical care system, which provides financial incentives for hospitals and doctors to put profits ahead of what’s best for the patient. Our articles provided information that helped readers determine what is and what is not appropriate treatment. July 2009 was our last hard copy issue of HealthFacts. We went digital thereafter until October 2012, when we stopped posting new content. Our archives are freely available online. Our papers describing over 30 years of advocacy have been donated to the Fales Library, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at New York University: They are in the Center for Medical Consumers Archive, which is a complementary collection to the Judson Memorial Church Archives.
From 1976 to 2014, we were committed to the improvement of U.S. medical care. Toward this goal, we…
- participated in nationwide and statewide efforts to reduce medical errors;
- encouraged public access to information about the comparative performance of doctors and hospitals.
- worked with policy makers to strengthen the process by which physicians and other health professionals are licensed and disciplined;
- represented patients and consumers on national committees working to develop health care performance measures;
- worked with other advocacy organizations to increase patient and family engagement in health information technology.
- and supported New York State’s efforts to transform the paper-based medical record system to a digital system that will enhance communication between patients and health care providers.
For most of our Center’s existence, our office space was provided at no cost by the Judson Memorial Church, a New York City institution with a much respected history of civil rights, anti-war, and reproductive rights activism, as well as innovative art, theater, and dance. The Church’s generous support enabled our library to be open free to the public for 26 years. Additional funding comes from royalties generated by our articles, small grants, and private donations. We have not received any financial support from the drug and medical device industries. The Center has never received funding from the drug or medical device industries.
This Web site was completely redesigned in 2009 thanks to a generous gift from the Leon Levy Foundation.
Arthur A. Levin, MPH, Director
Maryann Napoli, Associate Director