How do we evolve as an injury prevention community?

November 29, 2018

Written by Rachel Meade, Injury Prevention Manager at Injury Matters.

From the 5-7 November 2018, the 13th World Safety Conference on Injury Prevention was held in Bangkok, Thailand. This event brought  together over a thousand of the world’s leading researchers, practitioners, policy makers and activists to share information and experience on injury prevention. This year’s theme was Advancing Injury And Violence Prevention Towards Sustainable Development Goals.

The juxtaposition of an injury prevention conference with the ever-present challenges of injury in Bangkok were significant. It was eye-opening to see the challenges locals face on a daily basis; while navigating the streets of Bangkok, road safety, burns, falls and electrical hazards were never far from my mind.

The conference highlighted that global progress in injury prevention is too slow, and how we need to look beyond the public health sector for solutions and improvements.

It was the opinion of Professor Adnan Hyder of John Hopkins University that as a community, we need to think of safety as a value if we are to overcome challenges. As public health professionals, we need to look beyond the risk factors for injury and look at the social issues which enable the risk factors to be present.

We need to advocate and be outraged that people are dying and being seriously injured at the rate that they are.

In 2015, 2474 people died from falls in Australia. Where is the outrage at this? If there was a singular event that resulted in that many fatalities there would be significant attention in the media, but because it is individuals and not a collective the attention is not given. Injury is a significant public health priority in Australia and we need to make more noise to bring it to the forefront of the community.

Safety and injury prevention is everyone’s business. We need action across government departments, by NGOs, industry and importantly by community. We need to change our mindset when we think of safety, where it is something we value and think of the whole system to solve the problem.

At the end of the conference five solutions were suggested:

  1. Strengthen government leadership and accountability
  2. Strengthen legislation and regulation
  3. Shaping social norms
  4. Scaling up interventions for injury and violence prevention
  5. Strengthening monitoring and capacities

As a developed nation, Australia is in the fortunate position that we are advanced in some areas where the solutions were placed such as legislation and regulation.

One area where I think we need to focus on is the shaping of social norms, particularly with all forms of interpersonal violence and alcohol; which are supported and enabled through legislation, regulation and leadership.

We need to focus our efforts on the people who need our assistance the most, the vulnerable.

The conference concluded with the reading of the Bangkok statement which can be found on  www.worldsafety2018.org and announced the next conference to be hosted by the Public Health Association of  Australia in Adelaide in November 2020. Perhaps in two years we will see how injury prevention has evolved, shaped by the evidence of what we know works and implementing interventions with the people who are in need.