Injuries and violence causing 1 of 12 deaths, says World Health Organization

Injuries and violence take the lives of some 12 000 people around the world each day. As reflected in a new World Health Organization report, Preventing injuries and violence: an overview, 3 of the top 5 causes of death among people aged 5–29 years are injury-related, namely road traffic injuries, homicide and suicide.

In addition to those, injury-related killers are drowning, falls, burns, and poisoning, among others. Of the 4.4 million annual injury-related deaths, roughly 1 in 3 of these deaths result from road traffic crashes, 1 in 6 from suicide, 1 in 9 from homicide, and 1 in 61 from war and conflict.

Violence is a major public health problem in the United States, accounting for about 51,000 deaths annually.

Most intentional injuries and deaths are caused by suicide, homicide, or assault and experts say domestic abuse accounts for a substantial number of these tragedies.

Injuries are common. We hear about injuries on the news and in our communities and some of us will suffer a serious injury at least once in our lives.

Often, people say “accident” when they talk about injuries, but in fact, we can predict and therefore prevent the most serious injuries.

“People living in poverty are significantly more likely to suffer an injury than the wealthy,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “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.”

Many effective and low-cost interventions are available. For example, in Spain, setting the default speed limit for cities at 30 kilometres per hour is improving road safety; in Viet Nam, providing swimming training is preventing drowning; and in the Philippines, legislation to raise the age of sexual consent from 12 years 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.

“Accelerated action is needed to avoid this unnecessary suffering of millions of families every year,” notes 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.”

The WHO report is being released during the 14th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, currently taking place in Adelaide, Australia. This event provides an opportunity for the world’s leading injury and violence prevention researchers and practitioners to continue to advocate for evidence-based measures to prevent injuries and violence.

About 38,000 people are killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes each year in the United States. Traffic deaths resulted in $55 billion in medical and work loss costs in addition to the immeasurable burden on the victims’ families and friends.

Every year in the United States, almost 5,000 children are injured after window falls and there are an estimated 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings.

This report also highlighted the prevention measures and available WHO technical guidance that can support decisions for scaling up prevention efforts.

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