By Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH. Rivara is President of Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research (SAVIR). Dr. Rivara holds the Children’s Guild Association Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, and is a University of Washington professor of pediatrics and an adjunct professor of epidemiology. He is also Editor of JAMA Pediatrics.
More than 400 public health researchers and practitioners participated in the 2013 National Meeting of the Society for Advancement of Violence and Injury Research (SAVIR) and Safe States Alliance. Hosted in Baltimore by the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, this event focused on how research and practice have contributed to reducing injury and violence in this country over the last twenty years while at the same time calling attention to the pressing needs of today and tomorrow.
Speakers provided compelling examples of how investments in the science of injury prevention and control have paid off in lives saved. For instance, the tools of epidemiology were instrumental in establishing the heightened risk of death among infants in the years before car seats were mandatory – in fact, epidemiologists, physicians, and advocates working together used that science to change laws and educate parents so that today using infant car seats is almost universal in the United States.
Today, we face new challenges such as the opioid poisoning epidemic and out of control urban violence. The conference attendees were challenged to think about how best to address these needs in the face of shrinking government investments in both research and practice. The importance of partnerships and better integration of injury and violence prevention within public health systems were emphasized as important strategies for moving forward.
SAVIR is the only professional association devoted exclusively to promoting and enhancing injury and violence research. Investments in injury research even prior to sequestration have been small relative to the magnitude of the burden. Only 5% of the CDC’s budget goes to supporting injury prevention. Yet, injury is the leading cause of death in the US for ages 1-44. It is the second most expensive health condition, behind only heart disease. While injury affects the broad spectrum of the population, there are also huge disparities with some groups disproportionately affected, such as Native Americans, the young and the very old.
The good news is that for many injury problems, there are evidence based solutions – helmets, seat belts, drunk driving laws, to name just a few. What is desperately needed is an investment in translational research through which we can learn the most effective ways to deliver these proven effective interventions to populations that need them and reduce disparities, suffering, and costs to society.
Research!America recently conducted a national public opinion poll on injury and prevention research as a part of a larger survey. To view the results, click here.