Sometimes the real trick for improving health is getting people, including doctors, to hear the right message and then do something about it.
Dr. Ian Roberts, a British epidemiologist, believed a cheap, readily available drug called tranexamic acid, or TXA, a blood clotting medication could prevent tens of thousands of trauma patients from bleeding to death each year, if doctors only knew how well it worked and used it correctly.
'Roberts wondered if TXA could save lives in the emergency room. More than a million people around the world die in car accidents each year, he says. Ninety percent of trauma deaths occur in less developed countries. In a third of cases, hemorrhage is to blame. An inexpensive clotting drug like TXA could have a big effect in poor places with dangerous roads and primitive hospitals, he figured.
"Science is very good at finding the answer to whether a treatment works," Roberts says. "But it's very bad at helping you to remember that that treatment is effective. What people remember are stories — emotional stories."'
Roberts devloped a comic book to this end which begins with a bomb blast and follows three rather well-chiseled emergency doctors as they make their rounds, triaging casualties and treating wounds.
'One of TXA's earliest adopters, even before the comic, was the military. "The British army started using it straightaway," Roberts says, particularly on the battlefield in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army was skeptical at first, so it conducted its own study, comparing the outcomes of wounded soldiers in Afghanistan treated by British surgeons — and hence with TXA — with those treated by American doctors, no TXA.
The data showed that soldiers treated with the drug were less likely to die, despite often grievous injuries, and the American army soon started using it as well.'