Fresh evidence shows accident prevention should be the for public health, says RoSPA chief

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is today calling for urgent action after unveiling evidence that shows accidents are responsible for more “preventable” years of life lost than any other cause of death to at least the age of 60.
 
The 95-year-old safety charity says the ground-breaking research should now radically alter the way politicians and health professionals prioritise resources - not just in the UK but around the world. 
 
When re-analysing data from the Office for National Statistics alongside, other, recently developed data, RoSPA deduced that the traditional framework for defining the most needy priorities was now out of date. RoSPA now says the proper focus for public health interventions should be on addressing both premature mortality and those causes of death which can actually be prevented.

When the data up to age 75 is considered, preventable cancers eclipse accidents. Work continues to determine the cross-over point of these two causes of preventable death between ages 60 and 75. After 75, accidental death remains a close second in this mortality table until people are in their mid-80s, when it drops into third place behind cancer and heart disease.

Years of life lost is a measure of premature mortality and is used to compare the relative importance of different causes of death, particularly between those which occur while young and those in old age. Preventability measures whether an illness or injury can be prevented, not how difficult or costly it might be to achieve a successful intervention. 
   
Yet, unlike diseases which cause premature death, accidents, which are one of the most easily-prevented causes of death, do not benefit from large-scale investment or national strategies.
 
To tackle the problem, RoSPA is calling for the following urgent action:
 
1. Government ministers to make accidents a top priority and to provide national leadership
2. England's public health authorities to allocate £1billion from existing funds to address the causes of accidents in line with this new data
3. A task force set up to coordinate national action.
 
Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA's chief executive, said: “This stunning new research changes everything in public health, improving the life chances of everyone in our country. It's one of the most important announcements RoSPA has made in its 95-year history.
 
“Human life is precious and we all have a moral obligation to prevent people dying before their time.

“We all know about diseases and the resources that are pumped into preventing the deaths they cause.
 
“But if only a fraction of that resource was used to prevent accidents we would not be faced, as we are today, with an accident epidemic that's wiping out people in their prime.
 
“Taking all the factors into account, it is clear that accident prevention should be the number one priority for public health in this country. Aligning what we now see is the dominant cause of premature, preventable death with the most cost-effective intervention strategies presents us with a golden opportunity to save lives and reduce injuries on a hitherto unprecedented scale.”
 
The evidence will be contained in a new document - the Big Book of Accident Prevention - which RoSPA aims to give to every member of every Health and Wellbeing Board in England, ahead of wholesale Public Health reforms taking effect in April.
 
The research was officially unveiled at the Birmingham-based charity's AGM today (Friday, November 9, 2012).

RoSPA has contributed to the debate surrounding the reorganisation of public health on many occasions, including through consultation and inquiry responses. See www.rospa.com/publichealth/ for more information.



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