Remember Judi Scanlon

New York State Public Employees Federation nurse Judi Scanlon was killed by a patient with mental illness, which led to workplace wellness initiatives protecting mental health workers. Photo by NYS PEF.

Violence and injuries were responsible for 181,000 deaths in 2010, roughly one every three minutes. Healthy People 2020, a federally-funded set of health-promotion and disease-prevention goals, aims to find the roots of this problem — and fix them.

In a progress review hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday, health leaders tracked one of the most important of objectives of Healthy People, violence prevention across the lifespan.

“Injury and violence are the leading causes of death for Americans ages 1-44,” said Howard Koh, the assistant secretary at HHS.

Specifically, the webinar targeted violence among children and adolescents, and in the workplace. In 2011, children were exposed to 2 percent more violence, crime and abuse than Healthy People’s 2020 target number of 52.9 percent of the population. Whites, blacks and Hispanics or Latinos were each exposed between 55 and 60 percent.

The most affected group was children ages 12-17, with roughly 67 percent having been exposed to violence.

“Younger age groups are disproportionately impacted by non-fatal injuries, both in work and non-work environments,” said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics. “The burden of violence extends beyond homicides, such as non-physical assaults and bullying.”

The numbers were more encouraging in the workplace, where significant improvements have been tracked. At the core of the news, work-related injury deaths among workers aged 16 years and over declined by 20 percent between 1998 and 2010.

Programs such as “Stop Workplace Violence” in New York have helped improve workplace wellness. The New York State Public Employees Federation created the campaign in 2005, complete with testimony from victims, news coverage, statements from policymakers and eventually a state law that passed in 2006 — “to develop and implement programs to prevent and minimize the hazards of workplace violence to public employees.”

“Workplace violence is never part of the job,” said Matt London, a health and safety specialist at the Public Employees Federation. “The next step is to develop state-of-the-art prevention and response programs.”