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National leaders meet at injury prevention conference

BY HEATHER EDELMAN | APRIL 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The more education a community receives on injury prevention, the healthier it ultimately becomes.

This was one topic of discussion on Thursday during the Federal Partnerships to Prevent Injuries conference, an event in conjunction with the 2011 National Public Health Week to discuss safety.

The conference — hosted by the Injury Prevention Research Center based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, — featured a wide range of national injury-prevention experts who addressed possible ways to prevent violence against women, work-related injuries, mental-health related issues, and other sources injuries. The event concludes today.

“I would like to see [injury prevention] become a normal part of our lives, even more so than it is now,” said Linda Degutis, the director of the National Center for Injury Prevention, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Not just wearing a seat belt, but tuning in and knowing what’s going on and what the risks are.”

According to experts, education is the best way to achieve this goal.

Corinne Peek-Asa, the director of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center, noted injury prevention has always been a relatively small field in relation to the size of the problem.

According to the state Department of Public Health, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for Iowans between the ages of 1 and 34 and the fifth-leading cause of death for all Iowans.

One speaker, Susan Carbon, the director of the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice, said her office continues to look at how it can incorporate more prevention in the programs that exist.

“If all we do is look at something after the fact and never rewind that script to intervene earlier,” she said, “we are never going to break the cycle of violence.”

Iowans suffer more than 1,500 injury-related deaths each year — approximately 6 percent of all deaths in the state, according to the most recent statistics from the Public Health Department.

Furthermore, over 17,000 Iowans are admitted to hospitals for unintended injuries each year, and 250,000 Iowans are treated on an outpatient basis for injuries.

And experts suggested there’s hope to reduce the amount of injuries.

“Many injuries can be prevented through known evidence-based programs,” Peek-Asa said. “In many ways, injury-prevention efforts are one of the most promising and winnable battles to improve the health of U.S. citizens.”

Neal Walker, the chief of the Mental Health Promotion Branch for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said people have to speak up in their communities and work together with surrounding communities to address injury prevention.

“We need to build bridges,” he said.


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