Child Injury Prevention

Why Injury Prevention?

Injuries are the leading cause of hospitalization and death for Canadian children and youth between the ages of 1 and 19 years. Every 4 ½ days a child or youth in Saskatchewan dies and 38 are hospitalized due to an injury. The costs associated with injuries are enormous, not only in direct dollar costs, but more importantly in the loss of human life and potential. In 2004, unintentional injuries cost Saskatchewan $629 million, 399 lives and 2,540 individuals suffered a disability. Injuries however remain to be one of the least recognized public health problems today.

Injury prevention strategies address people’s behavior as well as the physical and social environment in which injuries occur through Education, Enforcement and Engineering.

There are two types of injuries: intentional and unintentional. Intentional injuries are the result of acts of violence such as suicide attempts, rape and assaults. Unintentional injuries are the result of falls, burns, drowning, motor vehicle incidents and other situations that are often referred to as “accidents”. “Accident” is a word used to describe common situations that seem to occur without a cause. When the word “accident” is used to describe situations resulting in unintentional injuries, most people assume that what happened was due to fate or chance. There are steps that can be taken however, to address the cause of injury and subsequently reduce the risk. Often these appropriate injury prevention steps are not taken and devastating injuries are the result. Unintentional injuries are devastating to the lives of individuals and families that experience them. Unintentional injuries are not “accidents”; they are predictable and preventable.

Leading Causes of Injury

In Saskatchewan, falls, motor vehicle incidents, poisoning, drowning, suffocation and strangulation, and fire and flame are the leading causes of injury to children and youth. These injuries can occur in the home, in the yard, on the farm, in the city, at school, at the park, in the street, and anywhere else that a child or youth may be.

Brain Injury

The brain enables us to do everything that we do. Our brain creates who we are as individuals and monitors and controls our every conscious and unconscious movement. We therefore must make every effort to keep our brains safe from injury.

Brain injury can occur due to a traumatic incident such as sudden impact, violent shaking, spontaneous bleedings or lack of oxygen. A traumatic brain injury often has devastating effects on the individual as well as family and friends. A traumatic brain injury may forever change who an individual is, their personality and characteristics, as well as their physical functioning including speech, fine and gross motor movement. A traumatic brain injury can result in seizures, anxiety, memory loss, impulse control problems and death. Individuals who suffer a traumatic brain injury often require lifelong support.

Protecting the Brain

The brain is naturally protected by the skull, however, we must often take extra measures to ensure its safety. These measures include many things including wearing an appropriate helmet when on a bicycle, skateboard, ATV, ice skates and during other activities.  Safety measures also include using seat belts to protect us in a car crash and safety gates on stairs to prevent toddlers from falling down stairs.  The brain must also be protected from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs during the prenatal development period and throughout life.

  • Injury for all ages of children and youth accounts for more deaths than all other causes of death combined. (Reaching for the Top. A Report by the advisor on healthy children and youth. Dr. K. Kellie Leitch. 2007)
  • Approximately 6,000 Canadian children sustain a major head injury which results in lifelong disability each year. (Reaching for the Top. A Report by the advisor on healthy children and youth. Dr. K. Kellie Leitch. 2007)
  • In 2004 Saskatchewan had the third highest per capita health care costs in Canada associated with injury, for all ages. Unintentional injury cost Saskatchewan $629 million, 399 lives lost and 192 lives changed due to permanent disabilities and 2,348 lives changed due to permanent partial disabilities in 2004. (The Economic Burden of Injury in Canada, SmartRisk. 2009)
  • Between 1995 and 2005 616 children and youth between birth and 19 years of age died from unintentional injuries due to motor vehicle incidents, drowning, fires, poisoning, falls, cycling incidents, pedestrian incidents and other (excluded self-injury and assaults). (Saskatchewan Comprehensive Injury Surveillance Report, 1995-2005. 2008)