Prevention Institute focuses on primary prevention-what we can do in the first place to prevent illness, injury, and violence. Effective prevention cannot be done in isolation by any one organization or field. It requires coordinated and comprehensive efforts by multiple organizations, leaders, fields, and sectors. Our prevention approach-which calls for comprehensive community level changes-aligns perfectly with the proposed Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance which seeks to address the devastating health impacts of drug-related poisoning before it ever happens. This ordinance calls for multi-agency engagement, including the Department of Environmental Health, the pharmacies, and the drug industries as well as community participation and as such promises to be a significant contributor in advancing prevention in the first place.
The problem: Poisoning from medicines is an environmental health and a public health issue
- Every day, about 165 young kids in the US- the equivalent of roughly 4 filled school buses are seen in emergency rooms after getting into medications (1,2).
- Currently, more children are brought to emergency departments for unintentional medication overdoses than for motor vehicle injuries (3,4).
- Why is this happening? There are many reasons:
- There are more medications than ever are in the home, including prescriptions and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, vitamins, and herbals;
- There is a rise in multi-generational households in which children may now have greater access to grandparents' medications; and
- Formulation of children's medications that are designed to taste good may entice children to take them when unsupervised.
What we can do: Prevention Works
As experts in the field of prevention, we know what works to prevent illnesses in the first place, and most importantly we know what must be in place for effective prevention to be sustainable over the long term. Primary Prevention must be comprehensive. This means that it must include:
Solutions Rooted in Community Wisdom--the combined knowledge, assets, and skills of community members which is the foundation for a stronger, healthier community environment and successful, sustainable prevention efforts.
Comprehensive Action to solve complex problems and achieve far-reaching gains in health and safety. Applies a layered framework of mutually supportive community prevention strategies to improve social and physical environments.
Promote Norms That Support Equity, Health, and Safety. Norms are "behavior shapers," levers for effective prevention. Altering policy is a vital tipping factor for changing norms, leading to supportive behavior and improved health and safety.
Interdisciplinary Partnerships to help break down silos; synthesize and integrate knowledge, perspectives, and tools across disciplines; and construct shared comprehensive solutions.
Innovative Strategies and Analysis that change community-wide systems and foster a new way of thinking where prevention is primary.
Strategies to prevent illness and injury before they occur have demonstrated a strong return on investment. Recent US studies forecast a savings of over $5 for each $1 invested in prevention. (6) The savings are realized not only through averted medical costs but also through increased productivity and reduced strain on social services.
- Child safety seats: $41.52 in direct medical costs and other costs to society
- Bicycle helmets: $30 in direct medical costs and other costs to society
- California Tobacco Control Program: $50 in total personal health care spending
These examples, provide evidence that Policy Addresses an Epidemic such as the current unintentional medication overdoses.
We Can't Afford Not To
Let's support the Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance in leading the nation to prevent any more children ending in the emergency rooms for getting into medications that could have been easily diposed.
1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Put Your Medicines Up and Away and Out of Sight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/features/medicationstorage/. Accessed April 24, 2012.
2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC WONDER Compressed Mortality File, Underlying Cause-of-Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. Available from: http://wonder.cdc.gov/mortSQL.html . Accessed April 24, 2012.
3) Budnitz DS, Salis S. Preventing medication overdoses in young children: an opportunity for harm elimination. Pediatrics. 2011; 127(6): e1597-e1599.
4) Bond GR, Woodward RW, Ho M. The growing impact of pediatric pharmaceutical poisoning. J Pediatr. 2011; 160(2): 265-270.