Nearly 1 in 5 Americans may be dying unnecessarily due to car accidents, gunshot wounds and other traumatic injuries, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report’s findings take on a new urgency in light of the mass casualties resulting from the Orlando shootings at the Pulse nightclub.

Where a person lives will determine the access they will have to trauma care services, according to the report.  The Orlando massacre happened close to a major trauma care hospital, and ultimately helped to save more lives. The high ranking advisers of the report called on the White House to lead an effort to address the lack of fast access to top trauma care in parts of the country. The authors of the study said there is no one organization in charge of trauma care nationally, and urges the White House to establish a national system that integrates the military’s battle field expertise in civilian trauma care. “The nation has never seen better systems of care for those wounded on the battlefield,” said the authors of the report. The aim is to have a national trauma care system with “zero preventable deaths after injury and minimal trauma-related disability.”

The report findings found that nationwide:

  • Trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 46, and cost $670 million in medical care expenses and lost productivity in 2013 alone;
  • Civilian trauma care is provided through a patchwork of trauma centers with varying results.
  • Two thirds of Americans have access to the most advanced Level 1 trauma care center, similar to the Orlando Regional Medical Center, within an hour by land or air.
  • Only 1 in 4 rural residents have this access, compared to 90 percent of those in urban areas.
  • Optimal trauma care may have reduced the 147,790 deaths in the United States by 20 percent in 2014—nearly 30,000 may have been preventable.

The report recommends that The White House convene a consortium of federal (military and civilian) governmental, academic, professional society and private sector stakeholders to develop a framework for an improved national trauma care system. The timing is right says a lead panelist, Dr. John Holcomb, a trauma surgeon and retired Army colonel at the University of Texas Health Science Center. These issues have been debated in the past but “this time maybe the difference is we’ve just completed a big war. People are very concerned about it. We do have terrorism going on on our own soil.  We do have a civilian trauma system that although not perfect is ready to receive some of these lessons-learned,” he said.

Source: “A National Trauma Care System: Integrating Military and Civilian trauma Systems to Achieve Zero Preventable Deaths After Injury,” The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, June 2016

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