OK, only a die-hard, Type A workaholic would schedule doctor and dental appointments during a vacation from work. Guilty as charged. But it was my experience at one of these recent appointments that started me thinking about injury prevention and how far we have to go to incorporate it into routine health care.
At 44, sometimes I wonder why I schedule such appointments, other than the usual female-related stuff that my mother has drilled into my head as being critical. At this age, when you go see an internal medicine specialist for an annual exam, they basically look into your nose, ears and throat, listen to your heart, take your blood pressure, and check for suspicious-looking things on your skin. Unless you have a history of high cholesterol, they usually don’t even draw blood. You’re not really old enough for those awful colon tests that I’ve heard about from friends and relatives, but you’re too old to completely disregard your health.
But the doctor’s office DOES ask a series of interesting questions on the little form that you are asked to fill out upon arrival. They want to know if you smoke; if you drink coffee, tea or soda and if so, how many a day. Ditto for alcoholic drinks. They want to know if you do manual exams on your breasts regularly. Do you take vitamins, do you exercise regularly and do you have any allergies. Interesting because as an injury prevention advocate, there were several glaring omissions from my point of view.
The last time I checked, the leading killer of Americans from age 1 to 44 was unintentional injury — that’s right — plain old "accidents." Maybe the nurse didn’t check my age, thought I looked 45 or so and gave me the wrong form to fill out. I doubt it.
Of those injuries, the most common are those related to motor vehicle crashes. Those are followed by burns, drownings, etc. Yet there was not a single question on the form asking me if I buckle up regularly, if I have a working smoke alarm in my home, or if I wear a life jacket when boating in the summer. If I ride a motorcycle or a bicycle, do I wear a helmet?
OK, why was there this huge disparity between reality and the questionnaire in my doctor’s office, I asked myself. Probably because to many people — even many of today’s physicians — accidents are misfortunes that just HAPPEN, not predictable and preventable events.
I realize it’s a long, slow process to change "paradigms" — and I don’t like that word, by the way. But change it we must.
To those physicians and other health care providers who are already incorporating injury prevention issues in their intake questionnaires, I applaud you. To those who are not, get with the program! For copies of free injury prevention surveys for children birth to age 18, go to our newly re-designed Web site: www.oksafekids.org.