WHO alarmed by high level of violence and injuries

News release

The World Health Organization today urged Member States in the Western Pacific Region to implement an enhanced response to violence and injuries to prevent an anticipated increase in mortality and morbidity from such causes.

"The annual number of deaths exceeds the number of deaths due to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined in the Region," WHO Regional Director Dr Shin Young-soo told the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, the governing body for the Region.

WHO warned that unless urgent action is taken, an already bad situation may further deteriorate. Industrialization, motorization, harmful use of alcohol and lifestyle changes are among the factors associated with the unnecessary high mortality and morbidity from violence and injuries.

"Violence and injuries account for 1.2 million deaths and enormous non-fatal consequences in the Region," Dr Shin said. "Unless we take action now, the problem of violence and injuries will continue to increase."

Calling on Member States to renew their commitment to the prevention of violence and injuries, Dr Shin urged countries to focus on road traffic injuries, childhood injuries, violence against women and children, and falls because of their high mortality, morbidity and social impact in the Region. A regional enhanced response will require multisectoral action and multiple interventions, said Dr Shin.

As the number of motorcycles and cars increases, the risk to motorcycle and car riders and passengers, pedestrians and cyclists increases disproportionately. Effective public transportation, together with pedestrian facilities, will protect these vulnerable road users, WHO said. Leadership at the highest level is required to ensure that all relevant sectors—health, transport, police, city planning, education—play their respective roles effectively. With funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO technical support, Cambodia, China and Viet Nam are targeting key risk factors for road traffic crashes, such as drinking and driving, speeding and non use of motorcycle helmets, and have made good progress in strengthening legislation and enforcement, capacity development and educating the public through social marketing campaigns.

Globally, about 5.1 million people die each year as a result of injuries, and the number is expected to rise. WHO estimates that by 2030, road traffic injuries will be the fifth leading cause of death (rising from ninth in 2004).

In the Western Pacific Region, childhood injuries, especially drowning, are a major threat to child survival. Drowning is the leading cause of death between in children 5 to 14 years of age in the Region. Effective measures include the installation of physical barriers to bodies of water.

WHO-assisted studies in the Region also show a wide prevalence of physical violence against women, which often results in physical, mental and reproductive health problems. All sectors should work together towards promoting gender equality and changing societal norms and attitudes.

The serious lifelong health consequences of violence against children, including sexual violence need to be addressed. These include depression, aggressive behaviour, tobacco smoking, high-risk sexual behaviour, unintended pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, and violent behaviour later in life.

Falls are likewise a significant problem, especially among the elderly. "With increasing life expectancy in the Region, our efforts to lay the foundation for safe and healthy ageing will become even more important," Dr Shin said.

Millions more suffer from permanent or temporary disability from non-fatal injuries. The prevention of violence and injuries in countries in the Western Pacific Region should be strengthened through the following actions:

  • comprehensive national policies and plans for violence and injury prevention
  • reliable information related to violence and injuries for sound policy-making
  • lead agency or effective intersectoral coordinating mechanisms affecting the implementation of community-wide interventions
  • provision of a continuum of care ranging from pre-hospital care to trauma care in health facilities all the way to rehabilitation
  • advocacy for violence and injury prevention

The Regional Committee meets annually to review the work of WHO in the past year and set future health directions in the Region. Some 100 representatives, including health ministers from the Region's 37 countries and areas, are attending the Regional Committee from 24 to 28 September.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Ms Marilu Lingad
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1272643638
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 891 4532
E-mail: lingadm@wpro.who.int

Mr Timothy O'Leary
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1252093845
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 886 8738
E-mail: olearyt@wpro.who.int