American Association of Poison Control Centers Observes National Public Health Week

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Public Health is ROI: Saves Lives, Saves Money


As the nation looks for ways to reduce health care costs, it makes sense to invest in the poison center system.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers is joining the nation’s public health organizations to promote the National Public Health Week 2013 theme, “Public Health is ROI: Saves Lives, Saves Money,” according to Marsha Ford, MD, FACMT, FACEP, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

“Our nation simply cannot sustain the current trajectory of health care spending,” Ford said. “Fortunately, we know that investing in public health – including the nation’s poison centers – can make an enormous difference, saving lives while saving money. In fact, every dollar invested in America’s poison centers saves $13.39 in health care costs and lost productivity.”

Poison centers play a vital role in the nation’s public health system. For example:

1. Poison centers save lives. Highly trained nurses, pharmacists and doctors at America’s local poison centers field about 3.6 million calls every year, including 2.3 million calls about exposures to poisons and adverse reactions to prescription drugs.
2. Poison centers save millions of dollars in unnecessary health care spending. About 90 percent of the public who call with poison emergencies are treated at the site of the call. Poison center expertise keeps the vast majority of callers out of hospitals and decreases the length of hospital stays – saving an estimated $1.19 billion in medical costs every year.
3. Local poison centers provide critical support to the nation’s public health system. Poison centers are often the first to identify emerging public health threats. In the past few years, U.S. poison centers were the first to raise the alarm about synthetic drugs; they identified health issues associated with energy drinks and packets of highly concentrated laundry detergent; and they tracked the incidence of specific food-borne illnesses.

Since 2011, federal funding to America’s 57 poison centers has been cut by 36 percent, jeopardizing the effectiveness of the national program. Those cuts came on top of local and state budget cuts. Further cuts will make it difficult for some poison centers to continue providing lifesaving services upon which the American public and health care providers rely.

“The return on investment for the federal government alone is substantial,” said Debbie Carr, MEd, executive director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. “Federal funding covers 13 percent of the cost to operate poison centers, yet Medicare and Medicaid combined realize 57 percent of the $1.19 billion in yearly medical cost savings. Since every dollar invested yields additional savings, federal cuts to poison center funding will cost taxpayers more in the long run. As the nation looks for ways to reduce health care costs, it makes sense to invest in the poison center system.”

The American Public Health Association’s annual celebration of National Public Health Week highlights the role of public health and prevention. Since 1995, organizations nationwide have celebrated National Public Health Week each April to draw attention to the need to help protect and improve the nation’s health.

For more information about National Public Health Week, visit For more information about America’s poison center network, contact Loreeta Canton, director of public relations and member services for the American Association of Poison Control Centers, at 703.894.1858 or canton(at)aapcc(dot)org or visit

About the American Association of Poison Control Centers:
The AAPCC supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at 1-800-222-1222, providing free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, the AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. The AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as EPA, HRSA and the CDC, as well as private industry.

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Loreeta Canton
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