An April 2003 New England Journal of Medicine article detailed the results of a study into the rates of sepsis, a blood infection caused by bacteria, among different patient populations. This study found that the rates of death due to of this infection were highest among black men. Even if this infection did not cause death, black men were still more likely to get sepsis than their white counterparts; black men also tended to get sepsis at a younger age than their white counterparts. This study found that during the period studied, whites had the lowest rate of this bloodstream infection.
Sepsis is a type of bloodstream infection that can be acquired by patients when they are in the hospital for another reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these and other hospital-acquired infections kill almost 90,000 people a year, – more than auto accidents and homicides combined. These infections injure 1.9 million more people and add almost $5 billion to the nation’s annual healthcare.
In order to address this widespread but still largely unknown threat, Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, has started a campaign to raise awareness about hospital-acquired infections. The goal of StopHospitalInfections.org is to help consumers find the best quality of care by promoting public disclosure of hospital infection rates and other hospital performance measures. With access to this key information, consumers and employers can identify the safest hospitals and competition among hospitals will quickly force the worst to improve.
StopHospitalInfections.org provides consumers with timely information about hospital-acquired infections and hospital infection initiatives developing on the state and federal level. The site gives consumers the opportunity to contact elected officials about the importance of public disclosure of hospital infection rates
April 5-11, 2004 is National Public Health Week; the focus this year is on “Eliminating Health Disparities.” For more information on National Public Health Week, go to www.nphw.org.