to be integrated into a larger system, just as burn centers operate in a broader context.

Based on its own record of hearings, the Committee came to recognize that its very formation and charge created a high level of anxiety in the poison control center community. It is not surprising that a field that has struggled for survival, and that only recently has had national policy successes in obtaining federal legislation and funding, would view the Committee’s charge with apprehension. Therefore, the Committee committed itself to an analysis that would provide the strongest basis for a Poison Prevention and Control System that could be sustained and well integrated into the health care system.

This report will begin with a summary of the future Poison Prevention and Control System as envisioned by the Committee (Chapter 2). That system encompasses, but is not restricted to, the role and position of the poison control centers. Rather, our proposal is based on, first, an analysis of the broad public health functions that underlie all aspects of poison control (e.g., primary prevention through consumer product regulation and public education and secondary prevention through telephone-based poison consultation); second, an analysis of the core functions of a poison prevention and control system and, within these, the core functions of poison control centers; and third, a proposal for a national approach to the organization, funding, and accountability for such a system.

The Committee recognizes that this is an ambitious task.


The Committee met six times between February 2003 and January 2004. These meetings were used to plan our work and gather firsthand information on the poison control system from key informants and from a site visit to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Denver, Colorado (see Appendix A for the list of contributors). At its first three meetings, the Committee received both solicited and unsolicited opinions and information from representatives of professional organizations and poison control centers. At our second meeting, we heard testimony from the directors of four poison control centers (Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, California Poison Control System, DeVos Children’s Hospital Regional Poison Center, and Middle Tennessee Poison Center) representing the range of large and small centers located in a variety of organizational settings. In addition, visits by one or more Committee members and staff were made to the National Capital Poison Control Center and the Maryland Poison Control Center.

Early in the process, the Committee recognized that the literature on poison control centers and the poison control system could not provide

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