Everyone is at risk for injury. It is a serious societal and global issue with huge health, social, and economic implications, underscored by the fact that injuries claim the lives of 15,866 Canadians each year, with 5,785 of those deaths in Ontario alone.
Understanding how, when, and where injuries occur allows us to effectively challenge the notion that they occur by chance, emphasizing that injuries are predictable, controllable, and preventable events.
This document provides a basis for public health and injury prevention practitioners in Ontario to guide their approach when interacting with decision-makers to make a case for support.
Injuries are a substantial cause of death and disability in Canada, but they are preventable. A Canadian study published in the American Journal of Public Health, “Diverging Trends in the Incidence of Occupational and Nonoccupational Injury in Ontario, 2004–2011,” shows that if injuries due to leisure, recreation or other non-work activities had fallen at the same rate as work-related injuries, there would have been 200,000 fewer injuries in Ontario in 2011. Dr. Cameron Mustard, one of the study’s authors, says, “A decline of 30 per cent in work-related injuries in just eight years is evidence that prevention efforts can have an impact.” This speaks volumes to the need of systematically investing in community based interventions and strategies aimed at increasing awareness, demystifying injuries, implementing evidence-informed practices and expanding successful interventions across the province.
Moreover, it has been shown that prevention is extremely cost effective. Table 1 below shows some positive examples:
It is important to note that injuries affect people disproportionately, with certain groups experiencing higher injury frequency and/or severity than others. In general, lower socioeconomic status (SES), which includes factors such as education level, employment, and ethnicity, is associated with a higher risk for major injury and injury-related death. In Ontario, children and young adults in the lowest income areas are 40% more likely to be injured than those in the highest income areas.
The economic burden of injury is immense across Canada. In fact, injuries result in a larger burden than some chronic conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. For example, in Alberta the emergency department cost of injury is $176 million while heart and stroke is $46 million, and cancer is $8 million. It is important to note that an October 2015 report from Alberta highlighted the complex relationships between prevalent chronic diseases and common types of injury, which helps make evident that injury is wrongly perceived as a small issue in comparison to chronic disease.
Over the years research has identified the types of injuries that contribute to the greatest burden, the groups that are most affected, the societal factors that have an impact on injury rates and the solutions that are proven to make a difference.
A comprehensive framework for injury prevention can address a broad range of risk factors and provides opportunity for intervention at many levels. Public health has a mandate for, as well as a long history of, collaboration with other stakeholders in law enforcement, fire, education, healthcare, and the Ministry of Transportation, among others. The multi-faceted approach taken by public health uniquely positions it to work collaboratively with the community, public, and private sectors to create and mobilize comprehensive strategies to take action. Comprehensive injury prevention looks beyond individual knowledge and skills and includes action on policy, social and physical environments. Many of these strategies include the 3 E’s of Injury Prevention: Education, Enforcement and Engineering. A comprehensive strategy increases the likelihood of success.
Updated December 7, 2017