These headlines above represent patterns that are just a small fraction of all that appear in our media everyday; they are headlines of events that resulted in injury and injury-related death that were predictable and preventable.
Each one of these events resulted in high direct costs to the health care system and indirect costs to the individual, family, and community. Let’s reflect on these situations. Health care costs include sending paramedics to the scene, the ambulance to the hospital, acute hospital treatment followed by rehabilitation. Some injuries may require a number of surgeries. The patient may be transported by air or ambulance to a trauma centre or a centre with a specialty such as toxicology. Family may need to take time off work and pay for accommodation close to the treatment centre, thus leaving the rest of the family in the care of others. If additional treatment is needed over the years, the family may need to take more time off work, pay for food and accommodation, and pay for caregiving for the rest of the family. These are only some of the immediate repercussions of injuries and death, but there are many others that cannot be quantified, such as emotional trauma, permanent partial or full disability, altered career implications, dramatic changes in future roles in family and society, loss of independent living and the necessity for institutional care. Table 2 shows a list of potential costs:
Reducing injuries by just 20% WOULD SAVE OVER $1.7 BILLION AND MORE THAN 1,100 LIVES IN ONE YEAR.
The following case studies are examples of promising practices.
The Community Against Preventable Injuries (Preventable) is the first social marketing campaign targeted at reducing the burden of preventable injuries in British Columbia. This campaign strives to create opportunities for people to use their imagination and draw their own conclusions about the risks of injury. The impact has been very positive, showing a 26% decrease in injury deaths during the 2009-10 campaign period.
Kids Need A Boost is a booster seat campaign that aims to reach out to the parents and caregivers of the high number of children (70%) who are not using boosters despite needing to do so. The initiative led by the Child Safety Coalition of Middlesex-London, offers educational events as well as booster seats at no cost.
Promoting November 2015 as Fall Prevention Month in Ontario was an initiative involving 109 organizations that led 157 activities during the month of November, reaching over 6,165 individuals, mainly through educational events. Social media was leveraged and helped engage local media, producing 96 news pieces related to Fall Prevention Month.
Distracted Driving, a worldwide issue mostly among drivers under 25, has been addressed by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), which banned the use of hand-held communication and entertainment devices and display screens in 2009. Stiffer penalties such as higher fines and demerit points as well as licence suspension for novice drivers upon conviction have the objective of effecting changes in attitudes, behaviour and mindsets akin to those already achieved in the areas of drinking and driving and seatbelt use.
SafeTALK is a half-day, evidence-based, suicide prevention workshop offered since 2015 by the City of Ottawa. The city’s initiative is the result of a partnership with the Ottawa Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Canadian Mental Health Association to promote and deliver safeTALK workshops in the community and in workplaces. Evaluations have shown improved outcomes for those at risk of suicide.
While these case studies represent a good start, they are not enough on their own. Efforts like these need to be considered, implemented, expanded and sustained. For full text on these cases see Appendix 1.