Looking back at my experience in the field of injury prevention and control, I can easily see how important partnerships have been in our efforts to decrease the toll that injury takes on people of all ages. We have come a long way over the past few decades, but face new challenges in enabling people to live injury free lives. We face the challenges of an aging population, with increased risk of falls; various forms of violence, including violence among youth which so often has its roots in early childhood, and has health impacts far beyond the immediate effect of injuries related to violence; motor vehicle related injuries that affect vehicle occupants as well as those who share the road with motor vehicles; emerging problems with narcotic prescription drug abuse and overdoses; suicide and injuries with long-term effects among our troops who are returning from their missions. While efforts in these areas may involve different partners and different approaches, they are all amenable to a public health approach.
Two and half years ago, as the departing President of the American Public Health Association (APHA), I wrote the following words in my final President’s column for: The Nation’s Health, APHA’s award-winning newspaper:
“We need to continue to work together.
We need to be heard as the collective voice of public health.”
I began my position as Director of the CDC’s Injury Center in November of 2010, exactly two years after I wrote those words. Today, at the start of National Public Health Week (NPHW), I can say that now, more than ever, those words are critical to our work with organizations and agencies in the field of injury and violence prevention and response across the country to encourage every American to Live Injury Free.
Since 1995, communities nationwide have celebrated NPHW during the first full week of April. The goal of the week has been to communicate with the public, policymakers, and practitioners about issues that are important to improving the public’s health. This year, CDC’s Injury Center is pleased to join APHA in a national effort to raise awareness of the importance of injury and violence prevention through the campaign “Safety is No Accident: Live Injury-free“.
In the United States, injuries are a leading cause of death for people of all ages, accounting for more than 180,000 deaths in 2007. In addition to the losses we feel in our families, communities, and as a society, injury deaths represent only a part of the enormous burden caused by injuries and violence. Every year 50 million people are injured severely enough to require medical treatment, costing society over $406 billion in medical costs and productivity losses in 2005.
Injuries and violence are not just predictable; they are preventable. For individuals and communities alike, Safety is NO Accident. Join us this week during NPHW to improve our nation’s safety — one person, one family and one community at a time. At the conclusion of this week, remember every day we are standing at the crossroads of our past and future – it’s the click of a seatbelt or wearing of a helmet, a law strengthened through the evidence base provided by research, a taxi ride home from the bar, a Tai Chi class at the senior center, a community that values safe places to live, to work and to play … By being the collective voice for injury and violence prevention, we can achieve our goal of helping people live their lives to their fullest potential.
Learn more about the Injury Center’s priorities. Learn about tips, programs and policy-related interventions to prevent injuries and violence at home and in our communities, and share with us the steps you are taking to Live Injury Free!
Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN