Healthy People 2020 (national agenda for optimal health and prevention) added sleep health objectives to our national agenda for good reasons. Did you know that 2.5% of fatal motor vehicle accidents are caused by “Drowsy Drivers”? A recent study by the CDC reported that 4.2% of respondents to a national survey stated that they had fallen asleep while driving in the last 30 days. So we should begin to think about driving while drowsy and driving while asleep as additional hazard categories. No pun intended!
This information can be startling but it presents opportunities to implement prevention strategies that help save lives. I’m not talking about new laws that will serve to penalize on the back end, but public health and clinical interventions that avoid medical complications. Many of us have been sleepy behind the wheel after a hard days work, but we probably never thought of it as a significant risk to the population. When you are sitting in afternoon traffic on I-285, how many of those fellow drivers around you pose the same risk?
Research that produces important information can be used by multiple agencies such as Public Health to educate the health system and general public. Then education and training can be instituted to help saves lives including those of our children. This study showed that the highest number of offendants who fell asleep while driving were between the ages of 25-34. With this study the researchers surveyed over 100,000 people to get their results. Can you imagine an interoperable health system that would allow us to gather and exchange this type of data quickly and more efficiently thorough an interconnected research network?
The evolution of prevention strategies is dependent on an innovative research network that also evolves. As we move to implement a solid HIT infrastructure, research certainly has to be one of our main focuses. Research capability cannot be confined to the laboratory but must be integrated into day-to-day clinical practice with utmost consideration of the patient’s privacy.
Without this research, I never would have known that so many people die as a result of not getting enough sleep. Now that I know, I will tell others and also make sure that I get more rest and be more cautious. Prevention starts with me (and you).