How to Respond to an Epidemic

Imagine an epidemic so virulent that it is the leading cause of death for children, teens, young adults. It takes 125,000 lives in America alone every year, not to mention causing nearly $80 billion in medical costs. Such an epidemic would surely inspire extensive media coverage, politicians insisting that something be done, and intense public concern about how to protect themselves and their families.

All of the above is true for the epidemic of preventable injuries—minus the media hype, political outcry and public concern.

Amid the relentless media coverage of Ebola in Texas, columnist Frank Bruni recently asked his readers a question: “Have you had your flu shot?” Bruni’s point was that while close to 50,000 Americans may die in a bad flu year, less than half of us receive the simple vaccination against it. “Ebola in the United States certainly warrants concern,” he writes. “But Americans already have such answers about a host of other, greater perils to our health.”

While there may not be a vaccination against injuries, there are many simple, inexpensive and proven effective steps that anyone can take to protect themselves:

  • Do you fasten your seat belt, and make sure that others do, every time you drive or are a passenger? Tens of thousands of Americans die in car crashes annually, and according to a federal analysis from 2012, more than half of them weren’t wearing seatbelts.
  • Do you have a smoke alarm, and have you tested it lately to be sure it’s still working? Having a working smoke alarm cuts the risk of dying in a home fire in half. (See more simple steps for fire safety.)
  • Do you have handrails on all stairs, and good lighting at the top and bottom of stairs? Falls are a leading cause of death for Americans 65 and older, and a leading cause of injuries for everyone. (See more ways to protect your family from falls/ protega a su familia de las caídas).
  • Do you make sure all medications and household poisons are out of reach of children? The growing use of prescription medicines by both adults and children has had a particularly serious side effect on children–a 22% surge in accidental drug poisonings of children. And 43 percent of children admitted to the hospital after accidentally ingesting a prescription drug ended up in intensive care. (See more ways to protect your family from poisons/ protega a su familia de envenenamientos).

There are many more simple, readily available and effective ways to protect yourself from the epidemic of injuries. Find them at Prevention 1st‘s Safety Resources.