Monday, August 11, 2014

Implications Done Right

Clean water source. Hygiene. Ebola containment.  These public health priorities and crises often seem like issues that only matter for developing countries.  Indeed, the CDC and other authorities have issued ample assurances that given the quality of our healthcare system and our very different cultural practices, the risk of an ebola outbreak in the US is very low.  That doesn't mean that we've learned our lessons.

As Aaron E. Carroll of the New York Times points out in an excellent article, Guinea worms (and ebola) aside, we are still battling issues of clean water, hygiene, and quarantine in the US.  And we pay for not learning such lessons with illnesses, deaths, and high costs.  As he writes:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million Americans become ill from food-borne illnesses each year. More than 125,000 hospitalizations are caused by food-borne illness, and about 3,000 deaths. Many, if not most, of these illnesses could be prevented if people properly stored, cleaned, cooked and refrigerated their food correctly. 
Between 1976 and 2007, deaths from influenza ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 a year. The vast majority of deaths from influenza occur in people who are 65 years of age or older. Proper hygiene and staying home during the infectious stage of the illness are still mainstays of flu care. But we also have a vaccine for this illness. Too few people get it. It’s estimated that two years ago, if we had just gotten the influenza vaccination rate up to 70 percent, up from the 45 percent we achieved, we could have prevented an additional 4.4 million illnesses and 30,000 hospitalizations.

Carroll connects global health crises with your health and deftly demonstrates the importance of persuasive communication as well as practicing what we preach.  We know what the answers are and we need to be compelled into putting them into practice.  Lives and dollars are at stake.

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