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Injuries responsible for most deaths during first decades of life

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More Americans die from injuries and violence before age 30 years than from any other cause, according to U.S. health officials.

The top reasons for those deaths, they found, include car crashes, falls, drug overdoses and firearm-related homicides and suicides.

Doctors and public health officials should work together to prevent injuries and violence and improve patient outcomes, write the authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in The Lancet.

“What we found is that nearly 180,000 people die every year from injuries and violence in the U.S.,” said Dr. Tamara Haegerich, the study’s lead author from the CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention in Atlanta.

She and her colleagues write that injuries and violence kill more people between the ages of 1 year and 30 years than the other main causes of death - including cancer, heart disease, birth defects, stroke and diabetes - combined.

Roughly 60 percent of injury- and violence-related deaths in 2010 were caused by unintentional injuries, close to 21 percent by suicide and about 20 percent by homicide.

Of deaths related to unintentional injuries, more than 33,000 were due to motor-vehicle crashes and another 33,000 were caused by poisonings. Falls were responsible for about 26,000 deaths and about 13,000 were caused by suffocation, drowning or fire, the researchers report.

They focused on homicide and suicide, prescription drug overdoses, falls among older adults, traumatic brain injury and childhood injuries as “pressing challenges.”

Those topics, they write, have gained increased attention for several reasons, including changing trends, rising public concern and disparities based on factors like income and education.

For example, four times as many prescription painkillers were sold to healthcare centers in 2010 as in 1999, they note. At the same time, about 38,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses in 2010 and prescription drugs were involved in roughly 60 percent of those deaths.

As an example of effective prevention strategies, the researchers discuss the recommendations of the non-federal panel of public health and prevention experts known as the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF).

The CPSTF recommends policy interventions that promote the use of child safety seats, which can reduce child fatalities in car accidents by 35 percent. The panel also recommends interventions that encourage the use of seatbelts, which can reduce fatalities and injuries by eight percent.

“We know that injuries and violence are preventable broadly by environmental change, policy and support,” Haegerich said.

As for individuals, she said people can talk with their doctors about how to prevent injuries and violence in their own lives.

For example, they can discuss alcohol use or violence at home.

“Injuries and violence are not inevitable,” she said. “They can be prevented.”

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1o21Lp8 The Lancet, online July 1, 2014.

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