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Injuries: Leading Cause Of Death In Iowa

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
Injuries: Leading Cause Of Death In Iowa

Injuries are a leading cause of death among Iowans with more than 1,500 injury-caused deaths each year -- more than four per day -- according to an inaugural report recently released by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center.

"The Burden of Injury in Iowa" report compiled data from death certificates, inpatient/outpatient discharges, the Iowa Crash Outcomes Data Evaluation System and the Iowa Trauma Registry from 2002 through 2006. Statewide and county trends are organized by gender, age group and cause of injury.

"This first-of-its-kind report attempts to paint a clear picture of the burden of injuries in Iowa," said Corinne Peek-Asa, Ph.D., director of the UI Injury Prevention Research Center. "Since all injuries are preventable, it is important that health practitioners, policy-makers and communities understand the breakdown of injuries in Iowa, so they can effectively prevent injuries and deaths."

The McCool family of Manchester, Iowa, experienced the seriousness of injuries following a car accident in spring 2008. Bill and Tami McCool's 11-year-old daughter, Maleah, had been riding in the front seat at the time of the car crash. Maleah suffered severe injuries and is since recovering, but the family said they have a newfound focus on safety and injury prevention.

"You always hear that accidents happen close to home, and the accident was only a few miles from our house," Tami McCool said. "Thankfully, Maleah was wearing her seatbelt. That's something we don't take for granted now. Whether we are one block from home or miles away, we always wear our seatbelts and we promote that preventative measure."

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Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional deaths due to injury for all Iowans with teens and young adults, ages 15 to 24, having the highest rates of hospitalizations and emergency department visits due to crashes, according to the report. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for Iowans ages 1 to 34 and the fifth leading cause of deaths for all Iowans.

Deaths from fall-related injuries are the highest cause of injury-caused death among older Iowans age 65 and over. Suicide is the most frequent cause of injury-caused death for Iowans ages 35 to 54 and the third cause of injury-caused death for all ages.

Smaller counties, those with populations less than 10,000, had the highest injury-caused death rate while counties with populations of more than 50,000, had the lowest injury-death rate.

"Injuries are major public health concerns that affect the lives of all Iowans, regardless of age, race, gender or where they live," said Binnie LeHew, chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health Disability and Violence Prevention Bureau. "We hope this report will stimulate and strengthen injury prevention efforts in Iowa among our state and local partners."

Deaths account for only a portion of the impact of injuries in lives of Iowans. According to the report, injuries lead to more than 17,000 hospitalizations and more than 250,000 emergency room visits each year. These visits cost the state an average of $300 million per year.

In addition to the statewide information, the report compiled individual county-level injury data. For the first time, county officials will have access to comprehensive injury data for their specific area.

"We foresee that counties will utilize this resource to help guide their planning efforts when developing injury prevention strategies and programs," Peek-Asa said.