Opening Address by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, 11th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion

Wellington, New Zealand
1 October 2012





It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 11th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion.

Injuries — including those from violence — cause more than five million deaths globally. That is more than the total number of people killed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

This figure is unacceptable.

We know that many injuries and violence can be prevented through the collaboration of relevant sectors.

It is now time to take the necessary action to stop the rising tide of injuries and violence.

This requires strong leadership at the highest level to make whole of government and society solutions work.

Making our homes, workplaces, schools and transportation safer is no easy task — but the rewards mean lives saved.

Several recent developments in injury and violence prevention are worth mentioning.

We are now in the second year of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.

At the same time, the increased attention on noncommunicable diseases, especially alcohol consumption, has helped to focus action on injury prevention.

On a more general level, the global focus on social determinants for health and the results of the Rio+20 Summit also represent opportunities to strengthen our collective action on injury prevention.

In the Western Pacific Region, about 1.2 million people die each year due to injury and violence.

That number represent about one-quarter of the global total.

Last week, ministers of health from around the Region met at the WHO Regional Committee session in Hanoi — where they discussed injury and violence prevention as an agenda item.

I am pleased to inform you that the ministers renewed their commitment and passed a resolution to enhance the efforts of Member States to prevent injury and violence.

WHO will provide support for these efforts.

This is just part of the work we are doing in the Region to prevent injury and violence.

With funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, WHO has supported road safety projects in Cambodia, China and Viet Nam in collaboration with governments and other partners.

Special areas of emphasis include strengthening enforcement and public awareness of road safety laws and providing assistance with capacity-building and surveillance.

With WHO's support, the province of Guimaras in the Philippines passed the nation's first legislation on drinking and driving, and Tonga developed a national plan of action for road safety.

In these cases, new laws were introduced and the existing laws pertaining to motorcycle helmets, drinking and driving and speeding were strengthened.

These campaigns also improved awareness of road safety overall.

Indeed, WHO is trying to raise awareness regarding many aspects of injury and violence that needlessly claim lives, especially those of children, such as drowning.

Drowning is the leading cause of death in children five to 14 years old.

The Western Pacific Region has the world's highest drowning rates among children.

WHO worked with partners in governments to initiate pilot child drowning prevention programmes in Cambodia and the Philippines.

Our support covers everything from helping develop surveillance systems to building fences around bodies of water and covering open wells and cisterns.

In Mongolia, we deal with a different type of threat to children: burns.

WHO is collaborating with the Government of Mongolia to develop safer alternatives to traditional stoves, which are a leading cause of burns to children.

We have also helped to build capacity among professionals working to reduce violence against women and children in Mongolia and Malaysia, including technical support for comprehensive services for victims in both countries.

These are but a few examples of the work we are doing in the Western Pacific Region — where our close collaboration with governments and other partners has been paying dividends.

Dr Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention at WHO Headquarters, will speak next and describe WHO's global efforts.

In general, we have made good progress on fostering key multisectoral collaboration to prevent injury and violence, but many issues and challenges remain.

Countries need to develop comprehensive national policies and plans with a lead agency and an intersectoral coordinating mechanism.

Work must be guided by solid surveillance and reporting of injury and increased advocacy.

Finally, trauma care services must be strengthened.

The health sector, in particular, should work closely with a broad range of sectors and partners to develop a national policy and action plan that includes advocacy, surveillance and victim services.

Together, we must scale up efforts to meet these challenges.

Unless we take concerted action now, the problems associated with injuries and violence will only increase. This conference, with its rich programme, provides many opportunities for you to contribute to the discussion.

I urge you to deliberate intensely, discuss openly and map out your important role in the prevention of injuries and violence.

You — the experts from the Region and beyond — have a critical mandate: to make the world a safer place.

I wish you and the conference every success.

Thank you.