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May 16, 1990

Preventive Medicine Extends to Injuries, Too

JAMA. 1990;263(19):2597. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440190053023

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INJURIES are not accidents, says Vernon Houk, MD, an assistant surgeon general in the Public Health Service and director of the CDC's Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control in Atlanta, Ga.

Houk fines staff members 25 cents any time they utter the word "accident."

"He rightly argues that the word implies something is unpredictable, that there's no pattern to it," says Mark Rosenberg, MD, director of the center's Division of Injury Epidemiology and Control. He vividly recalls having to dig for change in front of one of the top officials of the Department of Health and Human Services—"the assistant secretary for health. I used That Word, and he [Houk] stopped me dead in my tracks and asked for his quarter."

Rosenberg paid up because he agrees that the biggest barrier to reducing the incidence of injury is the "notion that things are just accidents you can't do anything about."