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Injuries account for most deaths


Stephens Media

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for Hawaii residents between the ages of 1 and 44, a new report from the state Health Department says.

Those injuries are the third highest cause of death for people of all ages within the state, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the Hawaii Injury Prevention Plan 2012-2017 report, put together by the department’s Injury Prevention and Control Section.

Despite the high numbers of fatalities caused by unintentional injuries — falls, drownings, poisonings and motor vehicle related injuries, for example — department officials said “injury prevention remains an under-recognized and under-funded area of public health.”

The leading cause of nonfatal, injury related emergency room visits — at 26 percent — was falls. Striking, mostly accidentally being struck by objects or people, often in sports, was the second most common cause. Being injured while riding in a motor vehicle was the cause of just 5 percent of nonfatal emergency department visits, the report said. Falls were the second highest cause of injury related deaths, at 16 percent of all deaths. Suicide topped that list, with 24 percent of fatalities. Poisoning, being a car occupant and drowning rounded out the top five causes of injury related deaths.

“Hawaii needs a strong, stable and comprehensive program to systematically address the many causes of injury in coordination with multiple partners,” the report said.

The report called for using the Trauma System Special Fund to bolster a comprehensive trauma system. Some hospitals have already instituted injury prevention interventions, which is also part of the infrastructure for a system to prevent more injuries, the report said.

The report also said the state’s Injury Prevention Advisory Committee and Injury Prevention and Control Section should serve as a clearinghouse for data on injuries, as well as provide training to increase skills among injury prevention practitioners.

The committee and Injury Prevention and Control Section should also work to help the public, especially the state’s decision makers, understand that injuries are a major public health problem.

“Many decision makers and members of the public, however, continue to think of injuries as accidents that are unavoidable,” the report said.

The report highlighted several types of injuries, and what the state could be doing to decrease those injury rates.

Since 1991, the Injury Prevention and Control Section has placed a special emphasis on drowning prevention. In 2011, the state recorded the highest number of drownings, 79, since 1993. A breakdown of the deaths showed that most, 83 percent, were male, and only 8 percent were younger than 18 years old.The report recommended a task force to create a statewide approach to drowning prevention, implementing an educational campaign to increase ocean safety awareness and evaluating the current drowning prevention efforts.

The section established the Hawaii Fall Consortium in 2003, providing a forum for information sharing, collaboration on fall prevention activities and promotion of best practices for reducing falls among older adults. The report recommended raising awareness about fall prevention among older adults, increasing the availability and accessibility of fall prevention programs and engaging the community and professional in fall prevention activities.

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