Unintentional Injury Prevention

David A. Sleet

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Unintentional Injury Prevention


Unintentional injuries, such as falls, motor vehicle crashes, and poisoning, are a large, predictable, and preventable national and international public health problem affecting individuals, families, and communities. Unintentional injuries are the fifth leading cause of death for people of all ages in the United States and the eighth leading cause internationally. Unintentional injuries are the biggest source of years of life lost prematurely in the United States. The consequences of injuries are extensive and wide-ranging, including physical, emotional, and financial burdens; in the case of disabling injuries, the consequences can last a lifetime. Every year, approximately 120,000 people in the United States and 3.9 million worldwide die from an unintentional injury. About 1 in 10 (or approximately 27 million Americans) had an injury serious enough to require treatment in an emergency department of a hospital. Globally, 138 million disability-adjusted life-years are lost annually, with over 90 percent of those occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 68 percent of all fatal injuries and 93 percent of all emergency-room injury visits are due to unintentional injuries from falls, fires and burns, poisoning, drowning, choking, and transportation-related injuries (that includes drivers and passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists). Approximately 50 million injuries per year lead to estimated lifetime costs of $406 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity in the United States. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2020, traffic-related injuries alone will be the third leading contributor to the global burden of disease and injury, up from the eighth leading cause in 2011. Controlling unintentional injuries has been an intractable problem for nearly a century. Modern preventive medicine and public health, however, have embraced it in a systematic, coordinated way only since the early 1940s. Injury prevention first focused on changing individual behavior, then on environmental control, and then, more recently, on applying an ecological framework with growing attention to the human–environment interface. This unintentional injury overview is intended to be a resource for general inquiries into unintentional injury prevention, including childhood injuries, falls among older adults, motor vehicle safety, pedestrian safety, poisoning, fire-related injuries, and sports injuries. We identify resources that pertain to the definition, history, development, and application of principles of injury control for use in preventing unintentional injuries.

Article.  6013 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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