Insurance Bureau of Canada joins SMARTRISK in calling for a National Injury Prevention Strategy

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TORONTO, Oct. 25 — Saving thousands of lives, reducing hospital care expenditures and shrinking a $15-billion burden to Canadian taxpayers are among the benefits of a proposed National Injury Prevention Strategy released today by injury prevention groups and the insurance industry.

Canada’s home, car and business insurers and SMARTRISK, along with other consultative partners, have called on the federal government to implement the recommendations contained in the comprehensive study: Ending Canada’s Invisible Epidemic: A Strategy for Injury Prevention.

“Every day, about 6,000 Canadians are injured and almost 40 die as a result of their injuries. It is the number one killer of children and young adults,” said Dr. Robert Conn, President and CEO of SMARTRISK. “Injuries cost Canadians an estimated $14.7 billion every year in health care expenses and lost productivity. This makes it the fourth-highest burden on the health-care system.”

Despite the toll exacted every year, very few resources are dedicated to either learning more about the causes of injury or putting in place co-ordinated plans to address injuries. Currently, Canada spends less than one per cent of its health research budget on injury research.

The study, for which Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) contributed $700,000, calls for a National Injury Prevention Strategy (see backgrounder below) that could dramatically reduce the human, economic and health system costs of injury. It would involve the creation of the Injury Prevention Centre of Canada, which would collect data and research, and help communities and governments implement effective, evidence-based strategies to reduce injury.

“Canada’s home, car and business insurers have a long-standing history of injury-prevention initiatives,” said Stan Griffin, President and CEO of IBC. “We led the drive for seatbelt laws, graduated licensing, and campaigns against drinking and driving. Our report to the Romanow Commission on health care in 2002 called for an Injury Prevention strategy. It was a natural fit for us to join forces with SMARTRISK and other partners, and we are proud to have funded this very important study.

“The effectiveness of injury-prevention initiatives is well established,” Griffin added. “But as long as thousands of people are still being injured every day, it is clear that more could be done. It’s a matter of determining what types of injuries are causing the greatest damage, and putting evidence-based strategies in place to avoid those injuries. We feel our $700,000 investment is money well spent if it helps Canadians stay safe.”

“We call on the federal government to take leadership on this issue and implement our strategy,” said Conn. “A national strategy will help us save lives and reduce the tremendous burden injury places on our health-care system. Canadians shouldn’t have to spend almost $15 billion each year on injuries, most of which are predictable and preventable.”

Conn said the National Injury Prevention Strategy could be implemented for $50 million a year with the potential to save billions of dollars in health-care spending — money that could go to other critical services. In addition, wait times for hospital beds, doctors, and emergency services could be reduced if fewer people were being treated for injuries that could have been prevented.

“This really is a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A $50-million investment to tackle a $15-billion problem is an extremely effective investment,” Conn added.

Griffin also called on the federal government to implement the SMARTRISK strategy. “Clearly, there is still work to be done to ensure that communities and governments have the support they need to implement life-saving programs. Canada’s home, car, and business insurers have always strived to make Canada a safer place to live. We urge the federal government to make this strategy a reality.”

Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national trade association for Canada’s private home, car, and business insurers.

SMARTRISK is a national, charitable organization dedicated to preventing injuries among all Canadians, with a special emphasis on children, youth, and seniors.

The cost of unintentional injury in Canada:

  • Injury is the number one killer of Canadians under 45 and the fourth leading cause of death overall in Canada.

  • Injuries kill more than 13,400 Canadians every year.

  • Injury is the leading cause of death for children and young adults. Every year, injury kills more than 400 children under the age of 14, and close to 1,600 people aged 15 and 24. For every child who dies, more than 80 are hospitalized.

  • Injuries cost Canadians an estimated $14.7 billion annually in health-care costs and lost productivity.

  • Average total cost per injury in Canada is $4,800.

  • Injuries are the third leading cause of hospital care expenditures and the fourth leading cause overall of economic burden.

And yet, Canada spends less than one per cent of its health research budget on injury research. As a percentage of economic burden, this makes injury the second-lowest-funded health burden in terms of research.

The six pillars of a National Injury Prevention Strategy:

SMARTRISK and its consultation partners, including Insurance Bureau of Canada, want Canada to have the lowest injury rates of any country in the world. To accomplish this, they recommend that the government develop a pan-Canadian injury prevention strategy built on six strategic pillars:

  1. National leadership and coordination

    • The establishment of an Injury Prevention Centre of Canada (IPCC) as part of the new Public Health Agency of Canada.

    • IPCC should have a distinct budget and mandate and be solely focused on promoting evidence-based strategies for injury prevention.

  2. An effective surveillance system

    • The establishment of a National Injury Surveillance Coordinating Committee (NISCC) within the IPCC to monitor injury trends and issue an annual “Injury in Canada” report.

  3. Research

    • The IPCC should build a cadre of injury researchers and foster the translation of knowledge into action.

  4. Community supports and resources

    • The government should establish a National Injury Prevention Community Fund and a clearinghouse, maintained by the IPCC, to provide communities with financial resources, information, and tools to implement evidence-based injury prevention strategies, and to share information.

  5. Policy analysis and development

    • The IPCC should provide governments with expert information and analysis and help facilitate the introduction of evidence-based policies, regulations, and programs to reduce the risk for injury in Canada.

    • Activities would include regular scans of international policy to pinpoint new evidence and effective practices, and reviews of domestic policies to identify opportunities for action.

  6. Public information and education

    • The IPCC should develop communication strategies to support the achievement of national injury prevention targets and goals.

    • Strategies should include marketing campaigns, media relations, and the development of reference materials.