WHO Urges More Effective Prevention of Injuries and Violence
GENEVA —The statistics are sobering. One in 12 deaths worldwide are caused by some form of injury and/or violence, and when all those deaths are tallied, the outcome shows that traffic accidents, drownings, falls, burns and suicides are taking the lives of some 12,000 people a day.
A new report, aimed at public health professionals, injury prevention researchers, practitioners and advocates, and donors, aims to draw attention to specific, cost-effective strategies for preventing these injuries.
According to the World Health Organization researchers who presented the report at the just-concluded 14th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, it is critical that these strategies are more widely implemented.
“Accelerated action is needed to avoid this unnecessary suffering of millions of families every year,” said Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the Department for the Social Determinants of Health, WHO.
“We know what needs to be done, and these effective measures must be brought to scale across countries and communities to save lives,” Krug said.
As outlined at the conference, which was held in Adelaide, Australia, three of the top five causes of death for people 5 to 29 years old are road traffic injuries, homicide and suicide.
Further, injuries and violence are not evenly distributed across or within countries — some people are more vulnerable than others depending on the conditions in which they are born, grow, work, live and age; in general, being young, male and of low socioeconomic status all increase the risk of injury.
“People living in poverty are significantly more likely to suffer an injury than the wealthy,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, in a written statement.
“The health sector has a major role in addressing these health inequities and in preventing injuries and violence, through collecting data, developing policies, providing services and programming for prevention and care, building capacities, and advocating for greater attention to underserved communities,” Ghebreyesus said.
Many effective and low-cost interventions are available. For example in Spain, setting the default speed limit for cities at just over 18 MPH is improving road safety; in Vietnam, providing swimming training is preventing drowning; and in the Philippines, legislation to raise the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16, in a bid to protect minors from sexual violence, is bringing positive change.
However, in most countries, political will and investment are lacking as measures are not in place at sufficient levels, the report said.
In order to induce more buy-in for prevention, the report includes an analysis of the costs and benefits for several selected injury and violence prevention measures that show they offer significant value for money, making investment in such measures of great societal benefit.
For example, with regard to child injury prevention, a study found that every dollar invested in smoke detectors saves $65; every dollar invested in child restraints and bicycle helmets saves $29; and every dollar invested in in-home visitation saves $6 in medical costs, lost productivity and property loss.
In Bangladesh, teaching school-age children swimming and rescue skills returned $3,000 per death averted.
At the same time, the WHO’s research shows the social benefits of injuries prevented through home modification to prevent falls have been estimated to be at least six times the cost of intervention.
It is estimated that in Europe and North America, a 10% reduction in adverse childhood experiences could equate to annual savings of 3 million disability adjusted life years or $105 billion.
“Although progress has been made in some countries in preventing injuries and violence, all countries should increase their investments in prevention,” the report concludes.
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