Injury Prevention Policy
Documenting the Cause of Injury
How do we know if there is an injury problem?
Public health workers monitor the population for the occurrence of certain adverse health conditions and the risk factors for some of those conditions. In most states, injuries are among the fatal and non-fatal conditions that are monitored (1). This systematic, ongoing collection of data is termed surveillance. Surveillance data are useful for indicating the magnitude of the problem, identifying new problems, examining trends, and assessing the success of injury prevention efforts. These data are primarily gathered from information on death certificates and hospital discharge forms.
Policy & Details
Emergency physicians, nurses, and EMTs shall receive training in capturing information about the intent, causes, and circumstance of injury-related incidents and the appropriate documentation of such in the EMS report or medical record.
Physicians, nurses, and paramedics are required to attend continuing education courses in their specialty. Some of these courses contain information about the mechanism and biomechanics of motor vehicle trauma and how this may effect treatment. However, the applicability of this information to injury prevention is seldom discussed. It is important to ensure that health workers are made aware of the benefits of uniform and reliable recording of the circumstances of each injury on patient records so that this information may be properly coded. Only then will this information be useful for injury prevention.
Surveillance systems are the primary means by which injury researchers and prevention specialists identify and monitor changes in the magnitude of injury problems. Surveillance data can help direct priorities to the areas in greatest need for attention. For example, a community could track the frequency of head injuries among children. The hospital records may reveal that many of these injuries were due to bicycle crashes. The availability of accurate and complete data would be needed to advocate effectively for the establishment of an injury-related policy or program to prevent these injuries. Promoting the training of health care professional in improved history-taking and record keeping will improve the quality of injury data and will further the development and evaluation of effective interventions.
Lee Annest, Ph.D., Director
David Lawrence, Director
1. Annest JL, Conn JM, McLaughlin E, Fingerhut LA, Pickett D, Gallagher SS. How States Are Collecting and Using Cause of Injury Data. Washington, DC: Injury Control and Emergency Health Services Section, American Public Health Association, 1998.
Last modified: 2-August-2000.