Sunday, January 02, 2005

Injury control post-tsunami

Injury control is the poor-stepchild of public health prevention. It has neither status nor glory. All it has is the task of preventing the major cause of premature disability and death in the world's most productive age groups. The invisibility of injury prevention in the current tsunami disaster is a case in point. From Hank Weiss of the University of Pittsburgh, via the STIPDA [State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors' Association] list-serv:
It occurred to us, and we assume many others in the injury control field, that all the deaths from this still unfolding mega-disaster so far are from injuries, including drownings. Yet it seems the media coverage focuses on body counts and future disease, not as much on future injuries, prevention or the acute care response. We hope this does not reflect upon the actual global response now being conducted and coordinated by tens of thousands of committed people from all over the world.

Watching pictures of barefoot survivors stepping through wreckage, unprotected rescue workers, demolished infrastructures, etc makes us wonder who is thinking about and addressing falls, burns, wild-life dangers, car crashes, violence and lacerations, etc....Of course in the worst hit areas, people need immediate clean water, food and safe shelter for survival. But new injuries and complications from earlier injuries will surely take an additional toll.

A lot of questions arise, but perhaps the most important question at this juncture is: What can and should the injury control community be doing to help right now and in the immediate future?

To assist the injury control community with this and related questions, CIRCL [Center for Injury Research and Control, U. of Pittsburgh] has developed and deployed a website with a discussion forum, some amazing and instructive photos, and some important donation links [here].