By Karen Sheehan, MD
We think about peer pressure as something unique to adolescents, but even in middle age, it can influence our behavior. For example, in a sports town like Chicago, it is with trepidation that I reveal the fact that I am not a sports fan. In fact, I am so not into sports, that I don’t even watch the Super Bowl, which explains why I found out later than most (even though I am a cheerleader for injury prevention) about the Nationwide ad that features a boy who’s died from a preventable injury.
When my colleagues in the injury prevention world e-mailed the ad to me, once again, I felt the uncomfortable feeling of peer pressure for not embracing it wholeheartedly.
My injury prevention colleagues have worked tirelessly for years to try to raise awareness about the impact of injury, the leading cause of death for children (and adults through age 44 years) and so they are understandably encouraged by the hoopla this ad has caused. I also think the ad is extremely effective in increasing awareness of preventable injury.
However, I have mixed feelings about showing it during the Super Bowl, a national holiday of sorts, when people gather for lighthearted fun with friends and family. I also worry about the families who have lost children to injury who had no chance to prepare for the ad’s message, and thus, it may have re-kindled feelings of unimaginable loss.
As adolescent peer pressure morphs into the grayness of middle age, one can more readily see that life is rarely black or white. Thus, I appreciate the awareness the ad has provided to an issue that receives much less attention from funders and policymakers than it warrants. But I am ambivalent about how the message was delivered.
One thing is irrefutable after this recent snowy weekend: I earned the title of a Chicagoan whether I love sports or not. I have lived in Chicago through three of the five biggest snow storms on record — a 60% win, which I believe is better than some of Chicago’s sports teams’ most recent records.
Dr. Karen Sheehan is a general pediatrician and a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. After taking care of kids who fell from windows, or were shot, or were hit by cars, it occurred to her that it would be better to prevent such injuries in the first place. She now focuses on prevention and maximizing a child’s health and well-being.