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Injuries Land 10% of Americans in Hospital

Falls account for nearly 1 in 4 visits

THURSDAY, May 3 (HealthScout) -- America is home of the red, white and black-and-blue.

More than one in 10 Americans checked into the emergency room last year suffering from a non-fatal injury, according to new figures from government health officials. That works out to 200 breaks, bumps, cuts and bruises for every mortal wound. Men -- especially young men --are much more prone to injury than women, and falls accounted for nearly one in four injuries.

The numbers are the fruit of a new method for gathering data on non-fatal injuries worked out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It builds on the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which has been in place since the early 1970s to help regulators track injuries associated with consumer goods.

Before the new NEISS-All Injury Program, researchers had to rely on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which reviewed about 24,000 patient case reports from hospitals across the country, says Lee Annest, director of the office of statistics and programming for the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control in Atlanta.

Of those files, only about a third involved injuries, Annest says, so the modified NEISS data will be much more comprehensive. "We're going to be putting a lot more information out there for folks," Annest says.

Under the new system, funded by a $2 million appropriation from Congress, statisticians collect injury figures nightly via computer from 66 hospitals nationwide, representing the spectrum of medical centers that house emergency rooms.

In all they'll produce detailed reports of some 600,000 non-fatal injuries, broken down by age, sex and other patient characteristics, as well as by the nature of the trauma and whether or not it was intentional or accidental. From that, Annest says, researchers will be able to extrapolate to the nation as a whole.

Tom Schroeder, a CPSC statistician involved in the expanded NIESS project, says the broadened effort has doubled the amount of information his agency collects from hospitals.

A rundown of the projected injury totals appears in the May 4 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2000, officials estimated, 31 million Americans sought emergency care for non-fatal injuries, 200 for every fatal case. Of those, nearly 94 percent were unintentional, caused chiefly by falls (about 25 percent) and car wrecks (roughly 10 percent). Six percent of the injuries, or just under 2 million, were linked to violence, two-thirds of which resulted from assaults with fists or weapons. Less than 1 percent were self-inflicted.

Trauma from sexual abuse was the fourth-leading cause of injuries stemming from assaults, the survey found, and women outnumbered men by nearly five to one in this category.

Overall, however, non-fatal injuries were 40 percent more common in men than women, and particularly among males age 15 to 19, who had almost double the rate of trauma as Americans on the whole.

What To Do

For more on injuries in the United States, visit the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control or the National Safety Council.

For more on product safety, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Or you can read other HealthScout articles about safety.

SOURCES: Interviews with Lee Annest, Ph.D., director, office of statistics and programming National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Atlanta; and Tom Schroeder, M.S., statistician, data systems division, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C.; May 4, 2001 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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