Healthy environments

Injury prevention

An injury is a bodily lesion resulting from acute exposure to energy (mechanical, thermal, electrical, chemical or radiant) or from an insufficiency of a vital element (drowning, strangulation or freezing).

Unintentional injuries due to traffic accidents, workplace accidents, home and leisure time accidents as well as intentional injuries due to interpersonal violence and self-harm impose a huge burden to health. With 235 000 fatalities each year, injury is the fourth most common cause of death within the EU, and the "Killer number one" in young ages. Also, injuries – unintentional and intentional – are estimated to be the main cause of chronic disability in young people, leading to an enormous loss of life-years in good health. The risk of death and severe injury is particularly high in such diverse areas as the home, leisure activities and sports, road transportation, the workplace, and in connection with consumer products and services.

Every half an hour a young person aged 15-24 dies of a fatal injury in the EU27. This means that almost twice as many young people in the EU27 die of fatal injuries than all other causes of death combined such as cancer and diseases of the circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems. Two-thirds of fatal injuries in young people (approximately 13,500 each year) are due to accidents in traffic, at the workplace, poisonings, drowning and falls. Among people over 65 years old, too, accidents and injuries are a major cause of death and disability and are often the trigger for a fatal deterioration in their health.

Considering the huge impact of the injury epidemic on productivity, health and well-being in the Community, a Community response to the issue would have added value. Progress could be achieved through a co-ordinated approach with sustained leadership by the Commission, the Member States and related partner organisations.

The Commission is also aiming at dealing with health-related injuries and their causes in a broader framework targeting environmental risk factors such as respiratory diseases (including the issue of indoor air quality), urban/rural planning and physical activity.


The Commission first work on injuries begun within the framework of the Injury Prevention Programme which started in 1999 and ended in 2003 when the Public Health Programme came into force.

In 2006 the Commission developed a Communication on "Actions for a Safer Europe" putting emphasis on prevention measures. The Communication highlights the role of the health sector in:

  • quantifying the size and impact of injuries in our society (access IDB)
  • disseminating evidence-based strategies (see relevant partners and stakeholders)
  • outreach and capacity building (see relevant co-funded projects )

In May 2007 was adopted a Council Recommendation on the prevention of injuries and the promotion of safety insisting on prevention and targeting 7 groups.

Children and adolescents are one of these groups and show the EU commitment for children health and injuries.

Read more about child safety

The above Recommendation calls for combined actions between the Commission and the Member States: the development of a European surveillance system for more efficiency in the decisions over injury prevention and the elaboration of national action plans on injury prevention and safety promotion in order to contribute to public awareness-building and to reduce the burden of injury in the member states. The key tool for data on injuries is a European Injury Database (IDB), which was set up by DG SANCO under the Injury Prevention Programme in 1999, and is still hosted by Commission services and supported through projects under the Health Programme. IDB collects accident and injury data from selected emergency departments of Member State hospitals

Read more on IDB