Americans strongly desire a well-coordinated trauma system

Americans may be sharply divided in their views on many aspects of health care in the United States, but they are in strong agreement when it comes to one of the most important but overlooked elements - a nationwide trauma system.

According to results of the American College of Surgeons' (ACS) new "On the Table" voter survey, 75 percent of voters support the establishment of a nationwide trauma system - including strong majorities across all political parties (86 percent of Democrats; 73 percent of Independents; and 63 percent of Republicans).

“It's clear that Americans understand the benefits of a well-coordinated trauma system. If a patient is seriously injured, they are 25 percent more likely to survive if they are treated at a verified trauma center,” said Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, executive director of American College of Surgeons and adjunct professor, Department of Surgery at Northwestern University Medical School. “ACS has a proven model recommended by the Institute of Medicine that we know is effective at delivering the best results. The next step is for Congress to help make this happen in all states, not just a few.”

According to the survey, almost half of voters (46 percent) believe their own states are prepared for an emergency situation, but half (50 percent) do not believe the nation's trauma centers are prepared to handle large-scale medical emergencies. ACS is currently working in cooperation with other trauma experts to develop a more comprehensive set of criteria and evaluation to assess the nation's trauma system preparedness.

“The nation's trauma system infrastructure is a patchwork quilt — it is underfunded, highly fragmented and ill-prepared to handle manmade or natural disasters,” Dr. Russell said, adding that “we need a comprehensive effort to shore up America's trauma care resources and fix problems that can threaten the health and lives of people in the midst of a crisis."

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for individuals ages one to 44. Data from the National Safety Council estimates that in 2004 alone, unintentional injuries cost the nation $574.8 billion, with $298.4 billion in wage and productivity losses and $98.9 billion in medical expenses. Trauma includes unintentional injuries such as falls and car accidents, intentional or self-inflicted injuries, as well as mass casualty trauma caused by a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Additional Key Survey Findings

  • Health care is a critical issue for voters. The vast majority of voters (93 percent) rank health care as an important issue for the government to address — including 30 percent who say it is one of the most important issues.
  • …and they find the current system lacking. Overall, seven out of 10 (70 percent) of voters rate the country's health care system as just fair or poor.
  • Roughly four out of 10 of voters are not confident in the nation's health care system's ability to deal with a disease outbreak, natural disaster or terrorist attack.
  • Most are not surprised to hear that a nationwide trauma system does not exist (71 percent). But they do overwhelmingly and strongly support the establishment of a national organized trauma system (75 percent).

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