Mostly preventable injuries kill 5 million worldwide each year – WHO

Mostly preventable injuries kill 5 million worldwide each year – WHO

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Often preventable injuries kill more than 5 million people worldwide each year – nearly one in every 10 deaths – and tens of millions more visit emergency rooms due to injury, both unintentional like road accidents and intentional such as assault, according to two new publications by the United Nations health agency.

These injuries can have serious economic impact, amounting to tens of billions of dollars annually, since many victims are primary breadwinners, according to the reports issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) – The Injury Chartbook, and Injury: A Leading Cause of the Global Burden of Disease.

“Their death or disability has serious implications for victims, their families and other dependants: reduction in quality of life, suffering and poverty,” WHO Director-General Gro Harlem said today on the publications’ release. “In strict economic terms, the costs associated with surgery, prolonged hospitalization and long-term rehabilitation for victims of injuries and violence, in addition to their lost productivity costs, represent tens of billions of dollars each year.

“We must now multiply our efforts to prevent deaths from injuries – including from road traffic collisions, interpersonal violence, war and conflict, or harm people may inflict upon themselves,” she added.

Stressing that injuries are not inevitable but preventable WHO said it had increased its efforts to disseminate information on avoidance strategies. Among the most effective are using seat belts in cars and helmets when riding motorcycles, enforcing policies against drunk driving or speeding, parent training and home visitation to stop abuse, wearing protective equipment at work or when playing sports, storing firearms and ammunition in separate and locked places, using flame resistant clothing and special packaging to prevent poisoning.

The publications note that of the five million people killed due to injuries in 2000, approximately 1.2 million people died of road traffic incidents, 815 000 from suicide and 520 000 from homicides. They also point out that the magnitude of the problem varies considerably by age, sex, region and income group.

Globally, young people between the ages of 15 and 44 years account for almost half of the world’s injury-related deaths. Seven of the 15 leading causes of deaths for people aged 5 to 29 years are injury-related: road traffic injuries, suicide, homicide, war, drowning, poisoning and burns.

Worldwide, injury mortality is two times higher for males than for females. Three times as many men die as a result of road traffic collisions than women. Figures also suggest that three times as many men are murdered than women. However, in the Western Pacific and Asia regions, rates of suicide and burns are higher amongst females.

According to the reports, patterns of injury deaths differ by region. While death rates from road traffic, burns and drowning are particularly high in Africa and Asia, death rates due to falls are highest in Western Europe. Homicide rates are three times higher than suicide rates in Africa and the Americas. The converse is true for Europe and Southeast Asia, where suicide rates are more than double homicide rates.

Meanwhile, nearly 90 per cent of deaths due to injuries take place in poorer countries. The newly independent states in Europe have the highest overall injury mortality rates while North America, Western Europe, and Australia-New Zealand have the lowest overall injury mortality rates.