WASHINGTON -- Thousands of lives could be saved each year if a greater national effort were mounted to prevent and treat traumatic injuries, according to a new report from a committee of the Institute of Medicine. The report calls for a new national policy to reduce injuries from firearms that builds on lessons learned in the successful campaign against motor vehicle injuries. It urges federal, state, and local officials to increase their support for injury prevention programs, emergency medical services, trauma care, and the public health infrastructure.
"There is a large gap between what is known about how to prevent and treat injuries, and what is actually being done in our communities, workplaces, and clinics," said committee chair Richard J. Bonnie, professor of law and director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. "Despite its great potential for improving public health, the field of injury prevention and treatment has not received the same consistent public attention as the prevention and treatment of diseases."
Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among people under age 35 in the United States. They result in nearly 150,000 deaths, 2.6 million hospitalizations, and 36 million visits to emergency rooms each year. The lost productivity and hospital costs resulting from injuries top $260 billion annually.
Firearm injuries caused nearly 36,000 deaths in 1996, second only to
automobiles, which caused approximately 42,000 fatalities. While injuries from
firearms have risen in recent decades, the rate of motor vehicle injuries has
decreased under the leadership of the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration. The reduction has come largely as a result of federal
legislation, road improvements, better vehicle design, and changes in behavior.
Such a comprehensive appr
Contact: Dan Quinn, Kristen Nye
The National Academies