Car Accidents and Diabetes: Our Societal Response

Here is something that I consider to be an interesting inconsistency.  In this country, we take pride in protecting infants and young children while they travel in cars.  Your lifetime odds of being involved in a serious car accident, one that may involve injury or death, is approximately 1 in 3.  Given that the lifetime odds of dying in a car crash are 1 in 88, most people survive the accidents they participate in.  However, those surviving such crashes can be affected for the rest of their life due to decrease in or loss of mobility, range of motion, and upper body function and may experience debilitating back pain.  To mitigate this threat, we enforce parents to use a variety of safety measures, including restraints, car seats, and placement of child in vehicle.  The annual treatment care costs of physical injuries due to traffic accidents (all ages):   99 billion dollars.

Now, if we examine the lifetime odds of American children born in the new millennium of contracting diabetes, it is approximately 1 in 3.  Diabetes reduces life expectancy by 10–20 years and can seriously impact the quality of life for some individuals, through such complications as neuropathy, retinopathy, hypertension, hearing loss, cardiac myopathy, and dermopathy.  The annual treatment care costs of diabetes in the United States (all ages):  113 billion dollars (and this is expected to triple by 2034).  Considering that type 2 diabetes represents 90% of diabetics, and this type is largely a product of lifestyle (i.e., diet), it should stand to reason that we would also mandate that infants and young children receive a diet that protects them from diabetes (such a diet does exist—you are not genetically predetermined to contract type 2 diabetes).  However, no such measures are in place.

I am not advocating for the intrusion of the government in our lives, nor am I making a claim that laws protecting our safety should be abolished.  I simply find it interesting what actions we will take to promote safety (i.e., protect our health) and what actions we will not.  Said another way, it is interesting to observe that we are comfortable giving up some freedoms, and uncomfortable giving up others, even though the “costs” of such freedoms may have many similarities.  Again, the intent here is not to judge parental choices.  But given similarities in costs, we might wish to be proactive about some health risks.