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The home of the brave

The UK and the USA may be two countries divided by a common language, and, as anyone who has ever sat through an entire American football game can tell you, there are some pretty large cultural gaps too.

But as you settle down with a Coke and nachos to watch House of Cards on your i-pad there isn’t much doubt that we are in the same ball-park, so to speak as the neighbours across the Atlantic. In fact, as they say in the Western Isles, the next parish is New York. And so we wondered, as Child Safety Week looms up, whether there were any lessons we could learn from the land of the free. America’s National Poison Prevention Week is held in the third week in March every year, this year the 15th to 21st March. It’s got an impressively long heritage. No less an historic fi gure than JFK signed the legislation that set the annual event in motion in 1961.

2m Poisonings
The Presidential status of the Week is a reflection of the seriousness which is attached to accidental poisonings in the USA. There are over 2 million poisonings every year with 90,000 emergency room visits. Sadly the annual fatality rate lurks around the one hundred mark. Ninety percent of those accidents take place in the home and follow the same sort of demographic patterns as we’d expect here. Distracted, busy families under pressure are the same wherever they are in the world. So, USA Poisons Prevention Week is on a massive scale with events right across the country. It’s coordinated by a committee supported by the American Cleaning Institute, an industry body and the focus locally is through the 57 Poisons Centres across the landmass where poisons statistics are recorded and analysed.

Committed Volunteers 
But at the end of the day, if you want something to happen on a big scale the only way to do it is to organise on a small scale. Just like Child safety Week the, Poisons prevention Week relies on small committed bands of volunteers working locally. We went to the Cache County in Utah to see how this works in practice. Well, we didn’t really, there was a budget issue. Lucky for us there is technology. Grrrr! Cache County is in the Rocky Mountains, white peaks, clear rivers and just the same mix of social problems and dynamic communities as we have here. The Poison Prevention Week activities are run by Safe Kids Bear River Coalition, supported by the save Kids charity and led locally by the Health Department. They’ve organised events in pharmacies, shopping centres and other community gathering places. It’s always reassuring that there isn’t a hidden secret somewhere that’s the key to running a good event. Just hard work and building partnerships. They don’t have a Taste Test to cause merriment in Bear River, or anywhere else in the USA. Yet. But we have plans.