I have many stories that I could tell about injuries and violence, from both my professional and personal lives. One of my nephews was diagnosed with depression when he was in high school. He was treated, eventually finished school, and graduated from college at the age of 25. He was accepted to law school, but tragically, he died by suicide shortly after receiving his acceptance letter. Working in trauma and emergency care for many years, I saw the impacts that deaths and injuries had on families like mine. These experiences compelled me to do something to prevent other families from suffering. Being at CDC where so many people are dedicated to preventing these kinds of tragedies gives me an opportunity to ensure that fewer families will experience such loss and disruption.
CDC’s role in public health goes beyond just preventing infectious diseases. We are doing vital work in the field of injury and violence prevention. We know that each year, over 180,000 people die of injuries in the United States, and close to 5.8 million people die around the globe. Our research shows that injuries are the leading cause of death for peoples ages 1-44 in the US, surpassing other leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases. And we are working in your community and communities all around the globe to reduce injuries and violence and their impact on health and society.
This year marks two decades since the founding of CDC’s Injury Center, where we work to bring science and practice together using public health strategies and interventions to minimize the impact of injuries and violence. Throughout this year, we will highlight many of our own injury and violence prevention success stories and some from others in the field of injury and violence prevention – stories about how we can and do make a difference. During this anniversary year, we will also be taking time to review the progress that we have made in preventing injuries and violence, and our vision for the next decade.
As I have already mentioned, injuries are the leading cause of death for young people in the U.S., and we know that road traffic related injuries are the leading cause of death for healthy people from the U.S. traveling outside of the country. While injuries related to violence comprise a part of the death toll, we know that violence causes long term health problems, mental health problems and disruption in the community. Let’s look at some of the detailed information that we have on injuries and violence:
- Each day in the U.S., over 493 people die of injuries.
- Over 7,500 people are admitted to a hospital for treatment of injuries, and more than 79,000 people are treated in emergency departments.
- 1 out of 5 women reported being raped in their lifetime, while 1 out 4 suffered violence at the hands of a partner.
- Unintentional prescription drug overdoses are increasing across the country, with death rates that are beginning to exceed death rates from motor vehicle crashes.
The nearly $4 billion in injury health care costs and lost work each year only tell part of the story. The costs of the consequences of violence are more difficult to measure, but we do know that exposure to violence, particularly at an early age, has lifetime impacts on health, work and well-being. We know that injuries and violence follow patterns, and are often predictable, and therefore, preventable.
In the CDC Injury Center, we use a public health framework to take the science and use it to inform what happens in practice – in communities, in states, across the country and around the globe. We use the numbers to help us understand the problem, we use information about circumstances of injuries and violence to develop solutions, and then we test the solutions in the real world. We know that there are faces behind the numbers, and that the faces don’t come from any one age group, race, ethnicity or sex. They include young children and older adults, parents, partners, siblings and friends. Injury and violence don’t discriminate – they affect all of us.
I started this blog with a story about one of my nephews. I’ll end with a story that has a different twist – a story about what happens when we prevent an injury or violence from occurring.
Most fatal fires in homes happen during the night, while people are sleeping. Properly working smoke detectors provide a warning of fire. In Georgia, local fire departments participate in the SAIFE (Smoke Alarm Installation and Fire Safety Education Program) and help the community by installing smoke alarms in homes. Over seven years, the program has contributed to saving over 150 lives. Specifically, in Moultrie, Georgia, 20 fires occurred in SAIFE program homes and 56 lives were potentially saved because residents were alerted to a fire and were able to leave the burning home.
As you can see, we are making progress, but we have a long way to go and many lives that we can save. We look forward to sharing our injury and violence prevention accomplishments with you and hearing your own success stories from your community, too. With the efforts of the CDC Injury Center, and our partners in the field, we can do this, and we can join together to make injury and violence prevention the premier public health achievement of the decade.
Begin sharing your success stories in the comments below!