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Assessing the burden of injuries: competing measures

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Objectives. This paper compares the different types of injury burden measures in common use and examines criteria that may be useful to consider when selecting between alternative measures. Methods. A review was conducted of relevant literature relating to burden of injury measures, important characteristics of data information systems and ethical frameworks for normative analysis in the health sector. Results. Four broad types of burden of injury measures can be distinguished: mortality-related indices; morbidity-related indices; composite measures combining mortality and morbidity; and monetary costs. Each type of measure uses its own construct of injury burden. For example, mortality data defines the injury burden as comprising only fatalities whereas comprehensive costs attempt to capture the total wellbeing lost through injury. Different measures of the burden of injury present differential rankings of the causes and intent of injury, thus the question arises as to what criteria should be used in selecting the best measure. Each measure of the burden of injury has merits and limitations. In selecting between injury measures, consideration should be given to the nature of the policy question, the construct of injury burden that each measure assesses, the availability of data for the measure and its quality and the ethical values inherent in each measure. Conclusions. Measures of the burden of injury play a useful role in positioning injury as a major public health problem and in policy work relating to injury prevention and control. No single measure of the burden of injury is ideal and several measures can be used together if necessary to provide different perspectives on an injury problem.
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Keywords: Burden of injury; costs; injury impact measures; injury prevention policy; priority setting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Population Health The University of Western Australia Australia 2: Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation Calverton MD USA

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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