39. Unintentional Injuries

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Abstract

Richard Lord, www.rlordphoto.com

Road traffic injuries (RTI), poisonings, falls, burns, and drowning can be analyzed (via the Haddon matrix) according to factors the effects of which occur before, during, or after the injury–causing incident. Risk factors that increase the frequency and severity of RTIs include greater traffic volume, increased speeds, consumption of alcohol, and the failure to wear helmets while operating two–wheeled vehicles. Preventive programs formed in conjunction with law enforcement and community organizations can reduce RTIs through lowered speed limits, "speed bumps," police enforcement, and helmet laws, among other measures. Accidental poisonings predominantly affect children, the most frequent agents being household chemicals, and can be prevented in part through better storage of hazardous materials and child–resistant containers. Falls are identified as a serious risk for older persons, typically in or around the home.The effects of falls can be minimized by physical exercise to maintain mobility and balance, as well as home hazard assessment and control. Injuries incurred from burns are usually the result of domestic accidents, the highest risk factors being environmental in nature. In developed countries, drowning generally results from recreational activities, whereas in developing countries drownings occur mainly when victims have homes or businesses located near water sources. For both burn injuries and drowning, there is little to no evidence that successful preventive programs exist in developing countries.

In fact, few data exist on the cost–effectiveness of unintentional injury prevention or successful prevention programs in developing countries, though a variety of policy changes can be cited as valuable examples. Education, better laws and their enforcement, and engineering may all be potentially cost–effective. Research and development are needed to adapt successful programs from developed countries. Unintentional injury prevention should be seen as an investment that is potentially cost–saving, given the costs of treating injuries and the destruction of physical capital, especially in vehicular accidents.