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On the epidemiology of injury in developing countries: A one-year emergency room-based surveillance experience from León, Nicaragua

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Background Regularly available data has been shown to be inadequate for developing, implementing, and evaluating injury prevention and control programs in Nicaragua. A specific prevention-oriented local injury surveillance system has therefore been set up in the city of León. Objectives The aim of this paper is to describe the epidemiology of fatal and non-fatal injuries over a one-year period in a well-defined local population in Nicaragua, as emerging from the perspective of emergency room and inpatient treatments over a one-year period. Methods A hospital-based injury surveillance system was established to collect data for different levels of severity. All treated unintentional and intentional injuries were registered, including information on the external causes according to the ICD-9. Results Of all emergency room visits, 15.9% (9,970) were injuries. For every death due to injuries, there were 31 hospital admissions and 253 emergency room visits. Home and street/roads were the main arenas for the accidents. The estimated underreporting rate was about 6%, and in 20.3% of the cases, no E-code was assigned. The overall incidence and mortality rates were 56.2 per 1,000 and 20 per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively. However, comparison with a parallel household survey showed that the reporting rate of the surveillance system is only about 9%. The overall ratio of male to female injury rates was 2.1 to 1. The main causes of non-fatal injuries were falls, whereas the main cause of death was traffic accidents. Conclusions Hospital discharge and emergency room data systems are effective and feasible means for collecting the data needed to prevent injuries. However, in a country like Nicaragua with limited access to hospital health services, it is necessary to supplement such a system with additional sources of information in order to gain a more comprehensive picture of injury occurrence.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-03-01

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