TFAH's report: The Facts Hurt

In "The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report," Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation detailed statistics showing deficiencies in public health safety.

As public health technology continues to progress, communities have more resources to ensure unparalleled personal safety. Unfortunately, findings from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are proving the old adage — that society’s worst enemy might be itself.

In an audio teleconference with reporters today detailing “The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” the two organizations announced startling gaps in injury prevention. The 75-page report concluded that “millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based injury prevention policies, and if programs were fully implemented and enforced.”

“When it comes to injuries in America, we found that facts indeed do hurt,” said Jeffrey Levi, TFAH executive director. “We found that thousands of injuries and billions of dollars could be saved.”

Injury prevention experts from the Safe States Alliance and the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Prevention helped define for the report strategies that reduce injuries and save lives. Among their findings:

  • 29 states do not require bicycle helmets for all children
  • 17 states do not require that children ride in a car seat or booster seat to at least the age of 8
  • 31 states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders
  • 34 states and Washington, D.C., do not require mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers
  • 18 states do not have primary seat belt laws
  • 44 states scored a “B” or lower on a teen-dating violence law review by the Break the Cycle organization
  • 14 states do not have strong youth sport concussion safety laws.

    Injuries, including those caused by accidents and violence, are the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 44 and third-leading cause overall.

    “While tremendous progress has been made in preventing and treating injury, it remains a leading cause of death for people of all ages and the number one cause of death for children,” said Andrea Gielen, SAVIR executive committee officer in a TFAH press release.

    APHA members Gielen; Levi; and Amber Williams, SSA executive director, discussed in the conference state-by-state injury death rankings; injury prevention activities statistics show reduce harm and death; and emerging social problems — such as: a steep hike in prescription drug abuse; concussions in school sports; bullying; and texting-while-driving car crashes.

    Declining funding for injury prevention poses another serious concern. “The Facts Hurt” found that financial support for states from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention averages only $0.28 per American — and has dropped 24 percent from fiscal years 2006 to 2011. Just 31 states have full-time injury and violence prevention directors, posing greater threat to public safety efforts.

    According to Williams, “More than one in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.”

    Among the state-by-state figures, New Mexico had the highest rate of injury fatalities with a total of 97.8 (deaths per 100,000 people) while New Jersey ranked lowest at 36.1. California and New York received the highest marks for injury prevention policy, while Montana and Ohio scored the lowest. Both gradings were achieved using methodology recommended by CDC.

    The full report, which was supported by a grant from RWJF, is available on TFAH’s website at