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IP/06/829

Brussels, 23 June 2006

Commission acts to reduce burden of accidents and injuries

The European Commission today adopted a Communication and Action Plan with the aim of reducing the burden of accidents and injuries, which are the fourth major cause of death in the EU, killing some 235,000 EU citizens each year. Accidents and injuries account for almost 7 million hospital admissions and for 20% of sick leave, and they are the leading cause of death in children and young people. The Communication on Actions for a Safer Europe makes accident prevention a priority for the current and future Public Health Action Programmes (the EU’s funding mechanism to support projects in the Member States). It also calls on Member States to work with the EU and to prioritise accident prevention through information campaigns and data collection. “The fact that someone in Lithuania is five times more likely to die from an accident than someone in the Netherlands is a stark reminder that we need to do more to prevent unnecessary deaths from accidents across Europe”, said European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou. “This Communication aims to get the Commission and Member States to work together to reduce this needless cause of loss of life and distress in all EU countries.”

The aim of the Action Plan is to put accidents and injuries high on the political agenda and to reduce the burden of them on our societies. It suggests:

  • Developing an EU Injury Information System: This will provide comprehensive information on the scale of the problem, groups at risk and risk determinants. It will combine injury data from health statistics from a wide range of sources. It will enable stakeholders to assess the health burden of injuries and to compare risks between different countries. It should also track improvements in statistics.
  • Supporting exchange of good practice: Over recent years there have been major advances in a number of areas of safety concerns, like traffic and the workplace, which have been very effective. However, other areas are less covered, like home, leisure and sport. These positive experiences should be shared and adapted to further their impact.
  • Setting up an EU network of stakeholders: The Commission will work closely with the authorities of Member States, especially in public health and consumer protection.
  • Vocational training of healthcare professionals on safety promotion: In addition to promoting training of healthcare professionals, the Plan foresees training teachers, welfare workers, architects and sales staff on hazards and safety measures.
  • Preparation of national action plans for injury prevention by Member States.
  • Information campaigns: Informing people about certain risks and the benefits of safety measures.

These actions would be supported through the Public Health Action Programme for 2003-2008 and its successors, and would require sustained collaborative efforts from the Member States.

The Plan aims to focus on the safety of children, adolescents and elderly citizens. It also focuses on vulnerable road users (e.g. cyclists, pedestrians, public transport users), complementing the Road Safety policy led by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Transport and Energy (DG TREN). It also targets the prevention of sports injuries, self-harm (including suicide) and interpersonal violence (domestic violence, violent attacks etc).

Next steps

The Commission will propose a Council recommendation on accidents and injuries, following the adoption of the Communication today. The Recommendation seeks to highlight this issue, raise awareness and set out steps for further action. Furthermore, Commissioner Kyprianou will address on 25 June the First European Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion. The Conference will be held in Vienna and is being organised by the Austrian Presidency with the support of the European Commission.

Background

  • Injuries are, after cardiovascular diseases, cancer and respiratory diseases, the forth most common cause of death in the Member States.
  • Many survivors of severe injuries suffer life-long impairments. Accidents and injuries are a main cause of chronic disability among younger people leading to a heavy and largely avoidable loss of life years in good health.
  • On average, injuries account for about 6.8 million hospital admissions, which represent 11 % of all hospital admissions in the European Union.
  • Injuries represent a huge financial burden on health and welfare systems, causing about 20 % of sick leave and constituting a major factor for reduced productivity.
  • The risk of an injury is unequally distributed in Member States as well as in social groups.
  • Injuries can be prevented by making our living environment, as well as products and services we use, safer. There is ample evidence of proven effectiveness in accident measures that are still not widely applied throughout the EU.
  • Most of these measures have been proven cost-effective, because the benefits of prevention for health systems often exceed by a factor of several times the costs of intervention.

Further information
European Commission:

http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/environment/IPP/ipp_en.htm

First European Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/environment/IPP/documents/ev_20060625_en.pdf


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