Each year, nearly 150,000 people nationwide die from injuries, most of which occur through preventable accidents at home, while playing or on the road. Injuries are the leading cause of deaths and lifelong disabilities among people 44 and younger in Louisiana and in the United States. In recognition of National Public Health Week, April 4-10, 2011, the Louisiana Department of Health urges Louisianians to take action to prevent injuries and violence and reduce their risks. This year's theme is "Safety is No Accident: Live Injury Free," and Louisiana public health officials are raising awareness of injuries and emphasizing preventive steps residents can take.
In 2008, injuries killed 3,502 people and sent 18, 955 people to the hospital in Louisiana. Motor vehicle crashes and poisoning were the leading causes of injury-related deaths. Falls and motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations. "We can't afford to ignore the impact injuries have on the health of the people of our state," said Assistant Secretary for Public Health, Clayton Williams. "Many injuries are preventable. Working together we can make Louisiana a safer place to live, work and play."
Within the home, more than 11,000 people die each year from preventable unintentional injuries, including falls, burns, drowning and poisonings. "It only takes a moment for any injury to happen," said Dr. Gina Lagarde, Interim LDH Injury Research and Prevention Program Director. "And it doesn't take much time to protect against injuries and make homes safe by taking simple precautions."
Some examples of precautions include:
- Assess your home for potential hazards such as poor lighting and uneven surfaces to prevent falls.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
- Establish a plan for how you would evacuate from your home in the event of an emergency.
- Make sure all electrical outlets are covered and inaccessible to children.
- Keep young children away from cooking surfaces and never leave food unattended on the stove.
- Program emergency numbers, such as the Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222), into your phone to call in the event of a poisoning emergency.
- Install four-sided isolation fencing at least five feet high and equipped with self-latching gates to prevent drowning in home swimming pools and spas.
- Store cleaning supplies and medicines in locked cabinets, out of the reach of children.
- Check your hot water heater periodically and adjust the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to avoid burns.
- Wear a helmet and other properly fitted protective gear.
- Put mulch, wood chips or other safety material under playground equipment.
- Remove jewelry, scarves, loose clothing and clothing with drawstrings before getting onto playground equipment.
- Have a physical before starting a new sport, and warm up each time before beginning.
- Play it safe and strictly enforce rules that prevent injury.
- Monitor children while they are at play to ensure safety.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.
On the Move
- Wear a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short the trip or whether you ride in the front or back seat.
- Make sure children are buckled up in a car seat, booster seat or wearing a seat belt.
- Be mindful of the environment, and be cautious when crossing the road. Use sidewalks and avoid jaywalking.
- Walk facing traffic, and make yourself visible when walking at night.
- Wear a helmet and reflective gear when on a bike, skateboard, scooter or other motor vehicle.
- Avoid texting, eating, using the phone or grooming while driving.
- Be a designated driver. Don't drink and drive, let others drink and drive or get into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking.
- Avoiding driving if you are tired.
- Discuss your rules of the road and ask your teen to pledge to avoid speeding, texting and having multiple passengers while driving.
Louisianans can make a real difference in their homes by committing to safer behaviors for themselves, their children and their families. For more information on injury prevention, contact the Office of Public Health's Injury Research and Prevention Program at 504-599-1080.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook page.