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A Closer Look at Injury Prevention and Safety

In addition to preventing, treating and curing chronic illness and disease, public health practice also includes injury prevention.

The scope of injuries addressed by public health practitioners is broad and includes:

  • Falls among the elderly, children and those with limited mobility
  • Unintentional poisoning by household chemicals or medication
  • Fire and fireworks-related injuries
  • Drowning or other water-related injuries in the home or during recreation
  • Motor vehicle injuries caused by distracted driving, drunk or other impaired driving
  • Intentional violence against children or the elderly, at home, work or school
  • Sexual assaults and suicides

Injury prevention researchers attempt to identify environmental and behavioral risk factors and patterns that contribute to injury. Public health lawyers use the results of this research to use or change laws to ensure that they effectively prevent or reduce the causes of injury. For example, research that revealed that children under 80 pounds were much less likely to suffer serious injury in a motor vehicle accident if restrained in a car seat led to successful efforts to secure laws mandating the use of child safety seats in states across the country. Likewise, research has shown face-to-face patient counseling to be an effective method of reducing accidental medication poisonings, leading public health professionals to work with pharmacists to develop protocols for such counseling. In turn, public health lawyers routinely work with public health researchers, policy makers, legislators and others to develop and secure effective laws and policies designed to discourage risky behavior and increase safety in the home, at work and in the community.

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