Researchers call for a global focus on injuries

Injury-related deaths and disability are on the rise, disproportionately so in low and middle income countries, with the global burden of injuries expected to increase over the next 20 years. In a paper published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers say that if these projections are to be thwarted, efforts aimed at prevention must become a priority - on the global health agenda and in low and middle income countries.

Injuries are responsible for one in 10 deaths worldwide, more than the number of deaths from HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The growing exposure to the risks of injuries in low and middle income countries, as a result of increasing motorization and economic development, calls for immediate action, says lead author Professor Robyn Norton, Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health, Professor of Public Health at The University of Sydney and Professor of Global Health at the University of Oxford.

“The number of injury-related deaths and disability is alarming, yet awareness of this global health issue is lacking,” Professor Norton said.

“The prevention of injuries, which should be the first priority, is achievable, as evidenced by a 50% drop in deaths from road-traffic injuries in high income countries like Australia, Canada and the United States,” she said.

“There is a significant body of evidence demonstrating effective strategies to mitigate the risks of injuries.

“For example, evidence shows that the healthcare sector, especially primary care, has an important role to play in the prevention of injuries to children and falls among the elderly.

“The success of many other prevention strategies will, however, require a multi-sectoral and legislative approach to injury prevention, for example, legislation requiring the installation of fire alarms or fencing around pools.

While prevention of injuries must be a priority, improvements in pre-hospital and in-hospital care should also be a focus of attention, as well as strategies aimed at improving rehabilitation services, especially in low and middle-income countries.

“The growing burden of injuries can be addressed when we adopt worldwide those prevention and management strategies that are known to be effective, and if we continue to develop new innovative and cost-effective approaches,” she said.

“Concurrently, the medical and public health communities, especially in low and middle income countries, must become ‘injury literate’.”

A disproportionate number of injuries are sustained by males who account for about 68% of all injury related deaths, with more than half of all deaths among males between 10-24 years caused by injuries, suggesting that prevention measures would benefits this population group.  

It is estimated that by 2030, injuries from road traffic accidents alone will be the fifth leading cause of death worldwide.

Click here for the paper.