WHO Report on Violence and Injuries Reveals Grim Statistics on Preventable Deaths
A new report from WHO highlights that violence and injuries are a leading cause of death in all countries of the WHO European Region, regardless of economic status. In the time that it takes to read this news item, 2 people will have died a violent and traumatic death in the Region.
These deaths occur on streets, in homes, at schools, and in the places where we work and play, both in isolation and when families are together. The stark reality of violence and injuries in the Region is that almost 500 000 people are killed each year from causes including falls, road traffic injuries, drowning, burns, poisoning, interpersonal violence and suicide.
But deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Behind these grim statistics lies an even greater magnitude of nonfatal injuries across the spectrum of severities, placing a huge burden on health and hospital services.
In launching the report “Violence and injuries in Europe: burden, prevention and priorities for action”, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said, “1350 times each and every day a parent, a child, a relative, a friend, is taken from us. Loved ones will grieve and rightly ask, ‘Why? How did this happen?’ We use different terms to try to make sense of these outcomes: an ‘accident’, a crime, a disaster, a tragedy. But one word that isn’t used frequently enough is ‘preventable’. Long-term research and international experience have well established that violence and injuries have risk and protective determinants – making them predictable and preventable.”
For example, enforcing legislation reduces road traffic injuries; limiting access to lethal means prevents suicide; restricting access to water saves young children from drowning; offering parental/caregiver support and education prevents violence against children; and developing strength and balance in older people prevents fall injuries. Further information on these examples and more are outlined in WHO technical guidance.
This report draws attention to those most impacted by violence and injuries. The figures are staggering – half of all deaths among young people aged 15–29 years, a third of deaths among children aged 5–14 years, and a quarter of deaths among adults aged 30–49 years are caused by violence and injuries. Overall, 42% of deaths due to violence and injuries are among those under 50.
This justifies the prominent inclusion of the prevention of violence and injuries in the Sustainable Development Goals. For the sake of future generations, scaling up of evidence-based and data-driven interventions cannot wait.
Uneven progress in countries
Despite the current magnitude of death and trauma caused by violence and injuries, progress has been made. Between 2000 and 2016, all-cause injury deaths fell by 30% in the European Region, compared with significant increases in most other WHO regions. That said, progress has varied greatly between countries: all-cause injury mortality has ranged from a 65% decrease to a 6% increase.
“I commend and congratulate Member States in adopting and implementing policies and actions that reduce violence and injuries,” said Dr Kluge. “In Europe, where injury mortality inequality is 5-fold across the Region, this offers an opportunity for greater collaboration and coordination between countries to share best practices and experiences,” he concluded.
“WHO stands ready to further our intersectoral support to Member States in the prevention of and control of violence and injuries,” said Dr Nino Berdzuli, Director of the Division of Country Health Programmes. “Our catalogue of technical and normative guidance is diverse and comprehensive, and when fully implemented it will save lives and prevent injuries.”