The 5 Ss for Improving Public Health

Posted on Tue, Jul 14, 2015
The 5 Ss for Improving Public Health

An emergency physician identifies important steps to reducing your health risk.
Public health news is often very sensational. MERS, Ebola, enterovirus, pandemics and quarantines all make for dramatic news stories. However, we all have opportunities each day to make a difference not only in our own health, but also in the health of our communities.
As an emergency physician, I often care for patients who are suffering from the negative consequences of their own poor health choices. I firmly believe that a few good choices can dramatically reduce your health risk and improve or maintain your quality of life. I have distilled my general preventive health advice into Corley’s 5 Ss.
Sunscreen: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. Whenever you’re going to be in the sun, generously apply a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunblock. The SPF or Sun Protection Factor should be at least 30. As long as you remain in the sun, reapply your sunscreen every two hours and give yourself frequent breaks from the sun. Do not use a tanning bed – ever.
Seatbelts: Always buckle up. I routinely see the carnage from unrestrained drivers and passengers involved in motor vehicle accidents. More than half of all passengers killed in motor vehicle collisions in 2012 were not wearing their seatbelts. According to the National Safety Council, properly worn seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury to passengers in the front seat by 45 percent.
Sober driving: Do not drink and drive. In 2012, approximately 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes. If you are going to drink and need to be on the road, designate a driver or take a cab. If you designate a driver, make sure that your driver is completely sober. Several times, I have seen terrible accidents where the “designated driver” was drinking too but stopped drinking to “be able to drive sober” – this does not work.
Shots: Get your immunizations. Although not every vaccine is right for every person, it’s important to consider whether the flu shot is right for you. People with chronic medical conditions, the elderly, pregnant women, and other people at high risk for contracting the flu should talk to their doctor about the vaccine.
Stop smoking: I saved the biggest one for last. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is responsible for almost half a million deaths each year in the U.S. Smoking cigarettes contributes to almost 20 percent of all deaths in this country. If you have never smoked, don’t start! If you smoke cigarettes now, talk to you doctor about ways to stop. I realize that tobacco can be one of the most difficult addictions to break, but you owe it to yourself and your family to do everything that you can to stop smoking.

Dr. Adam Corley is a practicing emergency physician with more than 10 years of clinical and leadership experience. Dr. Corley serves as Executive Vice President for EmCare’s West Division. He also serves as the medical director for several EMS services and the Anderson County Texas Sheriff’s Department. Dr. Corley lectures and writes on a variety of topics, including decision science and behavioral economics, management of disruptive behavior in healthcare, conflict resolution and healthcare leadership.

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