According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for children, teenagers, and adults under 30 is accidental injury, including drug overdose. Indeed, nearly 80 percent of deaths of people between one and 30 in 2010 were due to unintentional injury, suicide, or homicide. Each year, one young American dies in a car accident or from drowning or from a fall or from a drug overdose or because of crime or from some other preventable cause every three minutes, a total of 180,000 needless deaths annually.
"Although figures in public health maintain a common understanding of the definition, causes, and solutions to injuries and violence, this recognition might not be widely accepted by other audiences, including policy makers, clinical health professionals, and the public," study lead author Dr. Tamara M. Haegerich, PhD, said in a statement. She recommended science-based interventions to educate members of the public of the risks caused by preventable injuries, and about what steps could be taken to prevent them, as well as ways to make activities less risky. Dr. Hagerich cited child safety seats, seat-belt laws, and drink driving laws as examples of interventions that have been successfully used in the past to make people safer.
In addition to saving lives, these interventions are important because of the impact these injuries have on the economy. Injuries, including non-fatal ones, are responsible for more than $81 billion in medical costs each year. For comparison, medical costs of HIV infection in 2010 were $12 billion—injuries cost more than six times as much as HIV. In addition to the medical costs, violence and other injuries cost well over $400 billion in lost productivity and other expenses, as well as legal expenses and a possibly unknowable amount in treatment for the long-term effects of non-fatal injuries, such as health problems caused or exacerbated by injury, though not a direct consequence of it.
Violence is another area in which public health interventions might be useful. Many municipalities across the country are taking steps to fight bullying, to curb gang violence, and to provide structured activities for young people, as well as alternative methods of conflict resolution to forestall violence.