Accidents and injuries are the fourth leading cause of deaths among the EU population. One out of 10 hospital admissions is related to an injury and, as a result, they impose a considerable financial burden on healthcare systems estimated at approximately EUR 15 billion a year in the EU-region. There are also huge disparities amongst Member States regarding the risk of accidents and injuries.
Injuries are to a large extent preventable. Prevention policies need to be based on proper information about risk groups, risks and causes. Unfortunately, in most countries information on the causes of accidents and injuries is rarely collected. Therefore the Council Recommendation on the prevention of injury and the promotion of safety (2007) rightly recommended Member States to develop national injury surveillance and reporting systems, which should monitor the evolution of injury risks and the effects of prevention measures over time.
If there is one thing the health sector could do to help tackle the injury calamity, it would be to disclose evidence as to the magnitude and the characteristics of the injury problem and to advocate for concerted actions.
In response to this call, coordinated by EuroSafe, 22 countries have signed up for a joint action, to have by 2015 one common emergency departments-based injury data collection system in all EU-Member States: the Joint Action for Injury Monitoring in Europe (JAMIE). It will be a system to serve as a basis for benchmarking and designing appropriate prevention policies, both at EU and national levels.
The Council Recommendation has also urged governments to set up national plans for preventing accidents and injuries. Over the past few years, collaborative projects have been initiated in the fields of child safety promotion, safety in sports, and safety for older people. These actions, also coordinated by EuroSafe, include an increasing number of partners from all Member States and have had a significant impact on injury prevention policies and actions in partner countries and local communities.
The Commission is currently carrying out an evaluation study to determine whether the proposed measures are working effectively and to assess the need for further actions.
In the meantime we wish all readers of the EU Health newsletter a healthy and safe summer season. Summer is the perfect time for adventurous outdoor activities such as mountain biking, swimming and hiking, often in unfamiliar places. Make sure that you are well prepared, use proper equipment and obey safety instructions: ‘Better safe than sorry!’