Injuries are the leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) between the ages of 1 and 44 years and the third leading cause for all ages.
The Indian Health Service (IHS) Injury Prevention Program is based on the same public health principles that have been used to effectively control infectious diseases. Collaborative efforts in describing the factors amenable to change have led to implementation of successful community-specific solutions to the injury epidemic. Increasing the understanding that injuries are not "accidents" but predictable and preventable events has been an integral part of the IHS Injury Prevention Program’s mission to decrease the incidence of severe injuries and death to the lowest level possible and increase the ability of tribes to prevent injuries within their communities.
American Indians and Alaska Natives experience injury mortality rates that are 2.4 times greater than other Americans.
- 44% of years productive life lost for AI/ANs <65 years old.
- Treatment costs = $350 million per year.
- Implementation of effective injury prevention programs can improve the quality of life for Indian people and redirect the use of limited health care funds to treatment of other health conditions.
- Unintentional injury deaths of AI/ANs decreased 58% (1973-2008).
Risk factors that contribute to the disproportionately higher injury rates among AI/ANs include a greater proportion of young adults as compared to other Americans, rural environments and lack of traffic safety legislation, and a greater number of alcohol-related incidents.
The IHS Injury Prevention Program promotes building the capacity of tribes and communities by increasing understanding about the injury problem, sharing effective solutions, and assisting communities in implementing programs. Community-based injury prevention coalitions directed by tribal members and supported by tribal governments are becoming more visible throughout the IHS service areas. The IHS fosters competitive grant programs to build tribal capacity, to enhance existing public health infrastructure, and to implement effective community-based strategies to prevent injuries.
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