Every day in my practice, I counsel patients on issues that will improve their health. I discuss diet, exercise, alcohol, drugs, smoking and driving safety. A few months ago, I received a call from a patient who wanted to thank me for saving his life. I felt gratified by the credit, but was unaware of what I had done.
He reminded me that I had told him to wear his seatbelt. This is one of the most important pieces of healthy lifestyle advice I could give him at his 20-something age.
Because of his seatbelt, he was able to walk away from a car accident with only minor injuries. Police told him he would have died had it not been for the seatbelt.
Motor vehicle accidents are a health challenge in the United States. Yet thanks to public health initiatives, the number of deaths from accidents has decreased dramatically in recent decades.
These initiatives include speed limit and seatbelt laws, airbag regulations, better highway design, baby seat and child seat laws, and stricter and better enforcement of drunken-driving laws.
One of the dominant public health issues of today is gun safety.
Every day in my practice, I address the issue by counseling parents with young children about gun safety. Or, I suggest to my patients with depression that, if they own a gun, perhaps a friend or family member should keep the firearm until my patient feels better.
Firearms cause 90 deaths every day in the United States. That’s more than 33,000 deaths a year – about the same number of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents.
Suffice to say, the gun safety challenge is much bigger than my practice. It’s time to recognize the magnitude of this issue and work together to develop a rational approach to gun safety. It may involve a combination of research, education and regulations, which have been effective with other challenges in the past.
Here is what you, as a patient, can do to reduce gun violence, injury and death:
It is time to work together toward saving lives. While it may seem there’s not much we as individuals can do to address the public health challenge of guns, I encourage you to consider the above suggestions.
This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.