Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's a Public Health Issue

What if we re-framed the questions?  What if we stopped looking at legislation as the solution?  What if we made it "the right thing to do"?

A Facebook friend posted the questions her pediatrician asked at the kids' annual check up.  Along with the usual how are you feeling issues, the doctor asked if there were firearms in the home, and, if so, how they were kept safe.  Was there a locked gun cabinet?

Imagine if the Newtown shooter's mother had been asked that question.  Twenty six innocents would have celebrated the holidays with their families if minimal safety precautions had been followed in that home.  With all I imagine she had on her plate, perhaps that mother just couldn't deal with one more purchase, with one more errand, with one more thing to remember.

What if her family doctor or gynecologist had asked those two simple questions at her regular appointment?  The guns would have been seen as health threats, as well as implements of destruction protection violence amusement  items protected by the Constitution.  Hearing that question in the doctor's office might remove it from the noise of political palaver, might get her attention.  Would she have been reminded to secure the weaponry?  I think it's fair to wonder.

More important, would she have looked at the weapons in a different light? Would their appearance in the doctor's visit have opened her eyes to the damage they might cause? Couched in the language of the Constitution, of the legal system, of rights and governmental interference, the death dealing nature of the objects is often lost.  Talking about safety while wearing a flimsy paper gown might bring the reality home in a new way.

A friend is involved with Tucson's Healthy You Network, an outreach organization designed to move America's palate to a plant based diet.  He's energized and exuding health; there's nothing pale and weak about him.  We talked about childhood obesity and variety in the American child's food options and mostly we talked about how very very sad it all is.  I told him about eating spinach with the Prince Elementary kids and we sighed.... how does one get to be eight years old without ever having seen a spinach leaf?

Remember Wonder Bread builds healthy bodies 12 different ways?  There may have been more hyperbole than truth in that advertising slogan, but the message was profound: what goes inside shapes the outside. I'm not finding that message as ubiquitous these days.

Instead, we have arguments over whether the First Lady should be haranguing the citizenry about broccoli. We argue governmental interference or indifference.  We get nothing done.  Perhaps it is time to change our focus, to bring the conversation back to those things we can control when we wonder if our children are healthy and safe.

We can't exclude all the bad stuff from their lives, but we can make a start.  We can accept responsibility within our own families to insure that it takes the bad things just a little bit longer to happen, that we're conscious of the risks and we're mindful of them each and every day.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away is a, now that I think about it, relatively snarky rhyme which is permanently embedded in my brain.  Food pyramids or plates or calorie counts on the menu are less important to my behavior than that message, a part of my growing up, which empowered me to control my destiny.

Can it be that all we need is a slogan?  Probably not..... but it couldn't hurt. Until we decide on a good one, I'm going to aim some thought towards influencing ObamaCare's Best Practices Board to include gun safety questions in their "How to Interview a Patient" brochure.


  1. I am not a gun fan, but I do agree that politicians making more laws will do very little to solve the very real problems here.
    Murder is against the law. That fact hasn't stopped murder. It is against the law for convicted felons to possess firearms. Every day I read in the paper about a convicted felon with a gun committing another crime. I don't know the answers but I do feel strongly that they will not be found if we get ourselves stuck in a political debate.
    BTW, my doctor always asks those questions.

    1. Lucky you to have such a good physician! Bad guys will always be bad guys, I agree, but what about the two guys at the Texas Community College who got into an argument and drew weapons and shot one another this week? If they hadn't been packing, would it have been a fist fight instead?

      It's around the margins that we'll begin to make progress, but that is how it always is, no?

  2. AB, I found out on Tuesday night that happened at the college a high school friend of mine is a professor at. It was even in her building. She said they went into lockdown, but she was able to leave the building and leave the campus. It just boggles my mind that this is everywhere. We think it cannot touch us, but somehow because guns are so prevalent in this country, it's going to touch so many. We have an epidemic on our hands and if we look at it as a health crisis, maybe it will finally be addressed. I love your idea of putting gun safety questions into the ObamaCare's Best Practices Board. Absolutely brilliant.

    Finally snowed here in DC. I'm hoping it's not going to put too much of a damper on the march on Saturday.

    Megan xxx


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