Poison Call Centers Calculate Their Value At $1.8B A Year

(Wikimedia Commons)
(Wikimedia Commons)

If you, like so many of us, have a little magnet on your fridge displaying the number of the Poison Control Center, you probably think of it as an emergency aid for when projectile vomiting hits — not as a money-saver.

But the American Association of Poison Control Centers -- hit hard recently by federal budget cuts — has just released a calculation that the poison center system saves the country $1.8 billion a year in health costs and lost productivity.

Something to think about, in this season of drug lab scandals and tainted injections that additional investment in public health might have helped avert. The report calculates that the funding for poison control centers costs each American resident 43 cents a year. Rarely am I as happy to spend a few cents. It's an American-Express-ad type of thing: The ability to know exactly what number to call when your toddler has just eaten a bunch of aspirin? Priceless.

From the press release:

ALEXANDRIA, VA – A report released today confirms the value of the American poison center system, indicating that poison centers save Americans more than $1.8 billion every year in medical costs and lost productivity, according to Rick Dart, M.D., Ph.D, past-president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC)...

The Lewin Group’s analysis included the four most commonly referenced savings metrics (savings due to avoided medical utilization, reduced hospital length of stay, in-person outreach, and reduced work-loss days).

“Even though poison centers save countless lives and more than a billion dollars each year, America’s 57 poison centers suffered a federal funding cut of 36 percent in 2011, as well as cuts in state and local funding,” Dart said. “Further reductions in funding will make it difficult for poison centers to continue to provide life-saving services. This important report shows the value poison centers bring to the nation’s health care system.”

This program aired on October 16, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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