Thursday, July 13, 2006
When one person has bad health habits, society suffers

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Medical director

Recently the U.S. Surgeon General came out with an official statement that secondhand smoke is bad. Part of the statement was a recommendation that throughout the United States, communities move to non-smoking laws like the one Delaware has. However, bad health habits have always had a negative impact on everyone else. For example, cigarette smokers will have more health care expenses than non-smokers. The insurance companies pay for those health care costs. However, the insurance companies get their money to pay for those costs through premiums. Thus, every time you pay your health insurance bill, you are paying for other people's bad health habits. Those health habits may have direct consequences on insurance bills. For example, motorcycle riders who choose not to wear helmets have an increased number of head injuries. So do bicycle riders who do not wear helmets. When those injuries are treated, your health insurance will need to go up to cover those expenses. The same kind of thing is true for people who do not wear seat belts. When the auto insurance companies pay for injuries, they pass the cost of claims off to their customers in higher premiums. You might say that the cost is passed on to the individual driver in a premium increase. However, for those without seat belts, the injuries are usually a lot more than the individual premium. Everyone else pays the price. If someone is smoking in bed, the house may catch fire. Not using a smoke alarm may result in a house fire. Burning leaves too close to the house might result in a house fire. All the customers of that insurance company pay the cost for the repairs from those fires. They see it in their annual premium increase. The careless behavior of some affects all other policy holders. Some health habits have a more indirect effect on insurance premiums. The results of poor dietary habits may not occur for years. The results of poor exercise patterns may not occur for years. However, when the insurance company pays those health care bills, everyone else's premium goes up. Some individuals do not take their medication as prescribed. Some do not follow other prescribed treatments. When they get sick, their medical bills go up. The insurance company pays those bills by increasing the premiums. We sometimes will hear people say that they have a right to do what they please with their life. That is correct. However, they never indicate that they want to pay for that right. For example, a motorcycle rider may choose not to wear a helmet. He/she may have an accident and get paralyzed because of that. There is no way that such an individual could afford to pay the massive medical bills for a spine injury. Everyone else pays that bill for them. We do not do things in a vacuum. Our activities affect those around us. It might be bad health effects from second hand smoke. It might be money out of pocket to pay for insurance premiums. However, all things are interrelated.

Emergency response demo to be set up at state fair
Wailing sirens, flashing emergency lights and the Delaware State Police helicopter are part of a live mock-crash demonstration at the Delaware State Fair on Sunday, July 23. This free event, designed for all ages, is set for 12:45 p.m. on the track at the Wilmington Trust Grandstand. "Answering a 911 Call - an Emergency Response Event" will follow two car crash victims, the 911 call and the police, fire, ambulance, paramedic and medical personnel response. Coordinated by Delaware Health and Social Services' Division of Public Health (DPH) and the Delaware State Fair, the July 23 mock-crash event features emergency responders treating, stabilizing and transporting the car crash victims. A narrator will explain the action on the field. The Delaware State Police helicopter will transport one "victim" to Delaware's Regional Trauma Center, Christiana Hospital. An ambulance will transport the other "victim" to a simulated community trauma center in a local emergency department. According to Dennis Hazzard, the Delaware State Fair's general manager, "We are pleased to be working with the Delaware Health and Social Services' Division of Public Health in making our facilities available for this demonstration. Programs such as this serve as a unique way to educate the public about the work done by emergency responders. We encourage the public to attend to see, first-hand, how these agencies work together to save lives." Hazzard suggests adults should accompany children 12 and under to explain that the demonstration is fictitious and that the blood and injuries are theatrical. Audience members will receive free information packets as they exit at approximately 2 p.m. and are welcome to pose for photographs with "Vince" and "Larry," the buckle-up dummies. The event recognizes the 10th anniversary of the Delaware Statewide Trauma System, an organized system of caregivers who provide statewide round-the-clock medical care for seriously injured people. The system consists of eight acute care hospitals, injury prevention practitioners, emergency operations centers, basic life support and fire services, advanced life support agencies and the Delaware State Police Aviation Section. "Traumatic injury is the top killer and disabler of Delawareans between the ages of 1 to 44 years and the fourth top killer for all age groups combined," said DPH director Jaime H. Rivera, MD, FAAP. Traumatic injuries are caused by vehicular crashes, cycling and pedestrian incidents, falls, burns and assaults, according to 2003 Health Statistics Center data. Wearing seatbelts, using child safety seats, designating drivers if needed and wearing protective gear can prevent or minimize many traumatic injuries. 1996 legislation established the Delaware Statewide Trauma System, which has treated 23,910 people since it became fully operational in 2000. Some of those patients faced certain death if they did not receive immediate trauma care. The demonstration is presented by the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center; the Harrington Fire Company; Sussex County EMS; the Delaware State Police Aviation Section and the trauma teams at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, BayHealth/Milford Memorial Hospital and Kent General Hospital, Beebe Medical Center, Christiana Hospital and Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. While the demonstration is free, the fair's regular gate admission fee of $6 is in effect. Children 9 and under receive free gate admission.

How well is the state doing in keeping its residents healthy?
In the fourth in a series of 10 public health services assessments, Delaware's Division of Public Health and public health system partners will examine health information and health promotion activities designed to promote better health for all Delawareans. Public health partners will evaluate how well the Delaware public health system:

  • Provides health information, health education, and health promotion activities to all Delawareans to reduce health risks and promote better health.
  • Plans for health communication through the media.
  • Provides accessible. health information and educational resources to Delawareans.
  • Partners with others to implement and reinforce health promotion programs and messages .
The assessment is scheduled for Wednesday, July 19, at 10 a.m. in the DHSS Administrative Services building in the Silver Lake complex in Dover. The public is welcome. There will be opportunity for limited public testimony via letter or e-mail. For more information, contact Michele Moore at michele.moore@, or call 302-741-2907.