The American Public Health Association chose safety as its theme for this year’s National Public Health Week, during which the organization is stressing the preventable nature of most injuries. Is this year's theme relevant to developing countries facing menacing global health threats such as HIV/AIDS, chronic malnutrition or high maternal mortality? The answer is a resounding "yes" according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Consider road traffic accidents. According to the WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety, road traffic accidents were the ninth leading cause of death worldwide in 2004. They were the leading cause of death among young adults aged 15-29. Injuries resulting from road traffic accidents resulted in global losses worth US $518 billion.
If that were not ominous enough, traffic accidents are projected to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030, overtaking such perennial public health concerns as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. As with those two epidemics, developing countries will undoubtedly suffer the most. Already, over 90% of the world’s fatalities on the road occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which own less than half of the world’s vehicles.
As APHA’s weeklong campaign suggests, “safety is no accident.” We know what works in preventing injuries from traffic accidents: wearing seatbelts, improving roads, and enforcing speed limits and other traffic laws. Global action to fully implement these practices worldwide is long overdue.