Friday, August 6, 2010

MGHers successfully advocate for injury-prevention state laws

INJURY-PREVENTION SUPPORT: Gov. Patrick, center, signing the off-highway vehicle bill into law at a State House ceremony with guests, including Masiakos, far right

The caregivers at the MGH and MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) support the health and well-being of adults and children in many ways. Recently, several hospital caregivers and administrators went a step further in their support of the health of their communities when they played important roles advocating for several injury-prevention state laws.

On July 31, "An Act to Regulate the Use of Off-Highway and Recreation Vehicles" was signed, providing stricter safeguards for the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) by prohibiting children under the age of 14 from operating them. When the bill originally was presented in 2006, MGHfC pediatric trauma surgeon Peter Masiakos, MD, testified at the State House in its support, presenting emergency care data demonstrating that ATVs pose a significant threat to young children.

"Everyone who has worked tirelessly on this initiative is thrilled that it has finally been passed into law to prevent unnecessary deaths of unsuspecting youth," says Masiakos. He attended the private signing of the bill with Gov. Deval Patrick and several of the bill sponsors and supporters, including the Kearney family, who had advocated for the bill on behalf of 8-year-old Sean Kearney, who died due to injuries sustained in a 2006 ATV accident; Senate President Therese Murray; Sen. Steven A. Baddour; Rep. Vinny deMacedo; Rep. Thomas J. Calter; Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian; Rep. Michael A. Costello; and the Masiakos and Lee families.

Two other bills also were passed this summer with the support of Linda Lacke, MPH, MGH Outreach and Injury Prevention coordinator, and Caren Harris, NP, MGHfC Pediatric Surgery nurse practitioner. Lacke and Harris worked with state and community officials to support "An Act Relative to Safe Driving," and "An Act Relative to Safety Regulations for School Athletic Programs." The safe driving law bans text messaging for all Massachusetts drivers, prohibits junior drivers from using cell phones and institutes new license renewal procedures for mature drivers, among other provisions. The safety regulation for school athletic programs comes into effect Sept. 1 and requires high school athletic and band programs to have staff or volunteers, parents and student participants trained in concussion awareness. It also prohibits any student who has or is or suspected of having a concussion from returning to play until he or she has written clearance from a medical professional.

"We are extremely pleased with these three important injury-prevention laws," says Lacke. "Given that we are a Level 1 pediatric and adult trauma center, we see a lot of these cases. With our background on the cutting edge of patient care and research, the MGH's input has been so important to the support of such bills."

For more information about injury-prevention state laws and initiatives, contact Lacke at

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