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FOR RELEASE: February 10, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

New Report Highlights Injuries in Oklahoma

The number one killer of Oklahoma’s young people is not something they are born with, or develop over time. Rather, it is something that can happen in an instant - injury. After the first year of life, more children die from injuries than all other causes of death combined.

For all Oklahomans, injuries are the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of premature death before age 75. Oklahoma’s death rates due to traffic injuries, drownings, fire/burns, and suicide exceed national rates.

Most injury deaths in Oklahoma are a result of traffic crashes and gunshot injuries. The impact of these deaths and other injuries on Oklahoma’s citizens is devastating as well as costly. Injuries account for almost 2,500 deaths each year, and result in more than 55,000 hospitalizations and an estimated 791,907 emergency department visits. The costs of hospitalization, lost work and productivity, lives lost, and disabilities due to injuries total $2.6 billion annually.

To address these issues, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the Injury Prevention Subcommittee of the Oklahoma State Trauma Advisory Council, and many experts from across the state have developed an injury and violence prevention agenda for Oklahoma called Injury Free, Oklahoma: Strategic Plan for Injury and Violence Prevention.

“This is a dynamic action plan to guide injury prevention efforts in Oklahoma,” said Sue Mallonee, RN, MPH, chief of the state health department’s Injury Prevention Service for the past 17 years and currently Director of Science for the agency.

“Experience tells us that using seat belts, child safety seats, bicycle helmets, and smoke alarms are proven successful in reducing injuries and saving lives,” she said. “Beyond these actions, however, the plan includes numerous additional targeted recommendations that communities, organizations and others can use to implement injury prevention programs that will work to make Oklahoma injury-free.”

Mallonee said injuries are not ‘random, uncontrollable acts of fate,’ rather, injuries can be predicted, understood, and prevented. “The Injury Free, Oklahoma report used the best scientific knowledge available to address eight areas that can have a tremendous impact on reducing injuries in Oklahoma,” she noted. These areas include residential fire, traffic, suicide, occupational injuries/fatalities, unintentional drug and poison-related deaths, violence, falls, and an expanded injury prevention system.

Among the report’s recommendations are the following:

  • Increase seat belt and child car seat usage.
  • Increase the number of functioning smoke alarms in single and multi-family dwellings.
  • Review drivers’ licensing standards in Oklahoma and make recommendations for change where necessary.
  • Establish coordinated school health programs that include life skills training as one measure of suicide prevention.
  • Implement farm safety education campaigns.
  • Support and strengthen services at the Oklahoma Poison Control Center.
  • Enhance knowledge about violence prevention and expand and implement violence prevention programs.
  • Promote fall prevention, education and public awareness campaigns among persons 65 years of age and older.
  • Increase the number of counties with injury prevention or SAFE KIDS coalitions.

Mallonee acknowledged that some legislative intervention would be needed to implement the report’s recommendations, particularly in the traffic arena.

To obtain a copy of the report or to learn more about injury prevention in Oklahoma, contact the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Injury Prevention Service at 405/271-3430. The report can also be accessed online at www.health.state.ok.us/program/injury.

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