Public health guidance to prevent unintentional injuries
Heather Ward, from University College London, discusses the latest public health guidance on preventing unintentional injuries.
This podcast was added on 24 Nov 2010
Hello and welcome to this podcast from NICE. This month sees the launch of three pieces of guidance aimed at preventing unintentional injuries. Joining me to discuss the suite of guidance is Heather Ward from University College London.
Q1 interviewer: So Heather, what would you class as an unintentional injury?
HW: These are falls and road traffic accidents. Scalds and burns and to certain extend poisoning, chocking and drowning. These are the sorts of injuries that children may sustain through what we may call accidents.
Q2: Why has NICE been asked to produce guidance on preventing unintentional injuries?
HW: Well about four children a week die from their injuries and about another 40,000 a week go to emergency departments because they have been injured in accidents.
Most of these are preventable and we have measures at our disposal ready to prevent these. NICE has been asked to look into this area to reduce the number of children that are injured and of course the tragedy of the children that do die each week.
The other side of it is that there is a lot of good work going on at all levels and this needs to be looked at and reviewed, and maybe in some ways coordinated, so that we use the most effective measures to reduce the number of children who are injured and who tragically die in accidents each week and each year.
Q3: There are three different pieces of guidance in this overall suite of unintentional injuries work. What do the different pieces look at?
HW: The group that I chaired was looking at strategies to prevent unintentional injuries to children and young people and that was looking at the evidence for developing new policies, or improving policies, new strategies, new ways of working together at central government and local level.
As for the other two groups of guidance; one looks specifically at the home, and home safety assessments in particular, and the other one looks at road design to reduce the number of children injured on the road.
The strategic guidance, the one that I was the chair of, looked at the home, the road and children’s play and leisure settings and so it was quite a broad remit that we had.
Q4: And is this guidance aimed at quite a broad range of different organisations?
HW: It is yes. At central government level we have the government departments that are already active in this area, which are the Department of Transport, the police service, the Department of Health and the NHS, and the Department for Communities and Local Government because they are responsible for buildings and the safety of buildings.
And at a local level we have local highway authorities, local police, local children’s safeguarding boards, the fire and rescue service, schools and providers of play equipment and playgrounds. And there is a huge group of people who have responsibility and action in one way or another. So there is quite a large number of people involved.
Q5: What would you say are some of the main recommendations, the main take homepoints from this guidance?
HW: I think that because there are so many people involved, there needs to be some kind of coordination especially at the local level. So we are suggesting a local injury prevention coordinator is found within the local partners that I have been talking about.
Their role would be to coordinate activities across all these different groups to help align policies and strategies in this area to try and encourage people to work together so that we have a synergy, a coming together of policies rather than lots of different people doing very good work in their own areas.
People working together is a more powerful group than lots of individual groups working separately. And I think that is one of the most powerful recommendations that we have in this piece of guidance. Obviously, we have 21 recommendations and I’m just picking that one out for now.
Q6: How achievable do you think these recommendations are given the current climate of austerity measures?
HW: That’s a very good question to ask and something which we have been thinking very carefully about. And there are lots of opportunities for people to join together in partnership at the local level and each to put in whatever they are able to put into the partnership, and for the partnerships to work together to try to improve the safety of children in the local authorities.
Of course with the public health service coming into local authorities sometime in the future, we will have the health and wellbeing of children firmly situated within local authority. The different groups there will be coordinated.
There are different priorities within local government and different priorities within the police service and the fire service. But given that so many children die and are injured each year, especially on the roads, it is something that local authorities and partnerships would like to consider very highly among their priorities given the amount of tragedy and ill health and disability there is among the children that are injured each year.
Q7: Are there some simply low cost examples that you could give of preventing unintentional injuries?
HW: Yes, some of the lowest cost measures are those that can be applied in the home. And one of the things that we are suggesting, which is an important addition to homes where there are young children, is a thermostat known as a thermostatic mixing value.
Effectively it’s known as a thermostat that controls the temperature of the water coming into the bath. The idea behind this is that it prevents very young children from being scalded when they are being bathed. Young skin is very fragile and scalds easily.
This is a fairly low-cost measure to introduce into houses. It’s already in the building regulations for new houses but we would like to think that it can be applied by landlords retrospectively into their housing stock.
Given that it can cost up to a quarter of a million pounds to treat a scalded child, not to mention the scarring for life that these children endure, then it’s in our view a very good measure for local landlords to be installing.
Heather, thank you very much for your time.
HW: Thank you.
This resource should be used alongside the published guidance. The information does not supersede or replace the guidance itself.
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This page was last updated: 19 September 2012