Emergency-room visits dip during key Red Sox games

September 26, 2005

When is a medical emergency really an emergency? Not during key Boston Red Sox games, report investigators from Children's Hospital Boston in a letter published in the October issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine. Although previous studies have found a decline in health-care use during major sporting events, the Children's researchers are the first to quantify the magnitude of the events -- using television Nielsen ratings -- showing that the bigger or more suspenseful the event, the quieter the emergency department.

Borrowing data from a real-time disease surveillance system developed at Children's, the researchers tracked hourly visit rates at six Boston-area emergency departments during the each of the 2004 American League Championship Series (ALCS) and World Series games. They plotted these rates against television viewership as indicated by local Nielsen ratings.

During the lowest-rated games -- ALCS games 3 and 4, when the Red Sox were losing and facing probable elimination -- visits to the emergency room were about 15 percent above the volume expected, after adjusting for time of day, day of week, and seasonal factors like flu that can cause spikes in visit rates.

But then, the Red Sox won game 4. During game 5, Nielsen ratings surged and ER visits dipped about 5 percent below normal volume. During the highest-rated games -- the ALCS final game 7 and the World Series final game 4 -- fully 55-60 percent of Boston-area households tuned in and emergency-department visits dipped about 15 percent below the expected volume.

Gripped by Red Sox fever during the 2004 postseason, the study's key researchers, Drs. John Brownstein and Ben Reis of Children's programs in Informatics and Emergency Medicine decided to tap into the emergency department's Automated Epidemiological Geotemporal Integrated Surveillance system, or AEGIS, after the World Series concluded. AEGIS, a disease-monitoring system that has been expanded for use by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, analyzes patient data anonymously and compares it with data from previous medical visits, flagging abnormal disease clusters or symptom patterns.

After a week of late nights crunching and plotting data for the hours in question, Brownstein and Reis, also affiliated with Harvard Medical School, were able to show an inverse relationship between Red Sox viewership and emergency-department visits that held up under rigorous statistical tests.

"The public health finding here is people use discretion in deciding when show up in the emergency department," says senior study author Dr. Kenneth Mandl, an attending physician in Children's Department of Emergency Medicine and a faculty member of the Children's Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

A previous study documented an increase in driving fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday. However, Brownstein and Reis looked at emergency department results only during the hours of the games themselves, not afterward when drunken fans might be driving. It also examined all categories of visits, including routine health visits.

The hospitals analyzed were Children's, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital Cambridge Hospital, Somerville Hospital, and Whidden Memorial Hospital (serving the communities of Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Winthrop, and Malden).
Founded in 1869 as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is the nation's leading pediatric medical center, the largest provider of health care to Massachusetts children, and the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. In addition to 347 pediatric and adolescent inpatient beds and comprehensive outpatient programs, Children's houses the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries benefit both children and adults. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, nine members of the Institute of Medicine and 10 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. For more information about the hospital visit: http://www.childrenshospital.org.

Boston Children's Hospital

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.