health-related event for use in public health action to reduce morbidity and mortality and to improve health. Data disseminated by a public health surveillance system can be used for immediate public health action, program planning and evaluation, and formulating research hypotheses.” The importance of poisoning data tracking and surveillance is discussed in detail in Chapter 7.

Policy Development

The development and implementation of policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts are essential components of public health practice. Sound health policy development requires a combination of scientific guidance and analyses of existing policies, resources, research, and evaluation. Policy development and implementation may be expressed as legislation, regulation, executive orders, or policy. Processes for improving health in the community, including the use of performance measures to track progress on solving the health problem, are outlined in the IOM report, Improving Health in the Community (Durch et al., 1997).

Policy development is an important component of assuring a comprehensive Poison Prevention and Control System in every community in the United States. Data quantifying the incidence and prevalence of poisonings, along with evaluation and research findings about prevention strategies, are useful at all levels of government public health to implement policies to protect the public. Development of evidence-based policies best occurs through an informed process that includes input from a broad-based spectrum of disciplines, professional backgrounds, interest groups, community stakeholders, consumers, and others. A commitment by state and federal public health agencies to provide resources to assure a comprehensive poison control system of equal quality and accessibility in every jurisdiction is an example of a policy designed to decrease poisonings and improve outcomes of those poisoned.


It is important to assure the public that services necessary to achieve the best health outcomes and quality of life are provided, either by encouraging action by other private or public entities, by requiring such action through regulation or legislation, or by public health agencies providing the services directly either with staff or through contracts with providers (Institute of Medicine, 1988).

Strategies related to assurance within a poisoning prevention and control system may include (1) education of the public about poisonings, including how to prevent them as well as what to do if one occurs; (2) edu-

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