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Center focuses on deaths caused by injuries

BY KASSIE FRIEDRICHS | APRIL 03, 2009 7:37 AM

An average of 1,500 Iowans — 6 percent of the state’s population — die each year from injury-related deaths, according to a recent report by the UI Injury Prevention Research Center and the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The report, titled “The Burden of Injury in Iowa,” compiled injury-related data from 2002 through 2006. The UI center — created in 1990 — seeks funding for research to understand how injuries occur, provides information for policymakers and practitioners, and offers training on injury prevention.

“Many colleges of public health don’t have training in injury prevention,” said Corinne Peek-Asa, the director of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center. “Here [at the UI], we have one of the top training programs in the country.”

Roughly 100 people are involved with the center’s efforts, she said.

John Lundell, deputy director of the center, said the program focuses on rural injuries rather than urban ones.

“We don’t have the same issues as folks in Los Angeles do,” he said.

Peek-Asa said the report has three goals.

“First, we wanted to provide the data that local community groups and health departments need for writing grants and making decisions about injury prevention programs,” she said. “Second, we wanted policymakers and leaders to recognize the burden of injuries and the importance of preventing them.”

The third goal of the report was to help members of the public realize what they can do to keep themselves safe, such as checking smoking alarms, wearing seat belts, and driving safely without distractions, Peek-Asa said.

Motor-vehicle traffic deaths were the leading cause of injury death for Iowans under 34- or between 55- and 64-years-old, according to the report. Suicide was the No. 1 cause among Iowans aged 35 to 54, and falls were the leading cause of death for people more than 64 years of age.

“The burden of injuries is so high,” Peek-Asa said. “It’s also not recognized how often injuries are preventable.”

Binnie LeHew, the chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Disability and Violence Prevention, agreed, noting that injuries are a burden in terms of cost, health care, and emotional turmoil.

The report is also the first to collect county-level data — something all three officials said they think will be beneficial.

“When local groups apply for grants, they have to identify the importance of the problem. They need local data,” Peek-Asa said.

Lundell agreed, citing an example of a local group wanting to purchase bicycle helmets with grant money. Before the report, it wouldn’t have had specific county data to use in the grant application, he said.

Over 50 percent of Iowa children between 5 and 14 die from injuries, making it the leading cause for that age range, according to the report.

“It truly is the young [who are most affected by injuries],” LeHew said. “We need to focus on prevention to have life as long as possible.”


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