September Is Sepsis Awareness Month

by Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH, and Elizabeth Van Nostrand, JD

September Sepsis Awareness month

Sepsis, the body’s extreme reaction to infection, is one of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States, with annual costs over $20 billion. Common symptoms include fever, chills, difficulty breathing, and an elevated heart rate. Without timely treatment, sepsis can quickly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. In fact, sepsis is the most common cause of death in US hospitals.

In 2013, after the death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton from sepsis resulting from a soft-tissue infection, New York state issued groundbreaking regulations that require all acute care hospitals in the state to develop and implement protocols for the timely recognition and treatment of sepsis. These regulations, dubbed “Rory’s Regulations,” also require hospitals in the state to routinely train their staff in protocol implementation, as well as report to the New York State Health Department protocol adherence and clinical outcomes.                      September Sepsis Awareness month

A recent study by University of Pittsburgh researchers examined sepsis outcomes in hospitalized adults before and after Rory’s Regulations were implemented and found that mandated protocolized sepsis care was associated with a greater decrease in sepsis mortality compared with sepsis mortality in four control states that had not implemented sepsis regulations. While these results are promising, it remains unclear whether government mandated policies are the best approach to complex conditions such as sepsis, which may require more flexibility than what is allowed through legislation or regulation. As more states have either implemented similar mandates or are considering doing so, it is clear that more research is necessary, particularly to determine which aspects of the mandate are most effective.

In the meantime, entities such as the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention, the Sepsis Alliance, the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are raising awareness about this deadly condition and urging clinicians and lay persons to recognize the symptoms of sepsis so that treatment can begin quickly. These efforts are critical in order to control this deadly and costly threat to public health.              September Sepsis Awareness month

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September Sepsis Awareness month

Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH

Tina Batra Hershey, JD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Management, at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She is also the Assistant Director for Law and Policy at the Center for Public Health Practice at Pitt Public Health, where she researches legal, policy, and ethical issues related to the delivery of health care and emergency preparedness. [Full bio]. (Photo: Univ. of Pittsburgh Center for Teaching and Learning, Photographic Services)




September Sepsis Awareness month

Elizabeth Van Nostrand, JD

Elizabeth Van Nostrand, JD, is an Associate Professor and the Director of the MPH and JD/MPH Programs in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Pitt Public Health, an Adjunct Professor in the School of Law, a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fellow, Director of Pitt Public Health’s JD/MPH program, and Principal Investigator/Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Training Center. [Full bio]. (Photo: University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health)