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UK's Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center

by Betsy Hall

Injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of one and 44, and Kentucky continues to follow this nationwide trend. Finding ways to prevent those injuries is the reason the Kentucky Department for Public Health formed a partnership with the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center to create the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) in December 1995. KIPRC's mission is to promote-through research, education and injury prevention programs-the health of Kentuckians by reducing injuries, disabilities, deaths and the associated medical costs.

"We have much more research money going into heart disease and cancer, but we lose more potential life years with injury than these two major killers," says Pam Kidd, KIPRC director. "People have risk factors for injuries just as they do for disease. Sometimes it's immaturity or lack of skill operating new machinery. Sometimes it's weather conditions. But injuries are not 'acts of God'; they can be prevented." Injury wasn't recognized as a major public health problem in the United States until the 1980s. Congress created the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the youngest of the 11 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1989.

KIPRC is unique. One of 11 injury prevention centers in the United States, KIPRC is the only one which isn't federally funded. Instead, KIPRC is supported by contracts from the state health department, grants obtained by UK faculty, and the UK medical center. KIPRC also is the only center in the nation that has a partnership with public health and academia, Kidd says.

"We are involved in research and also in public health. The two are very complementary." Kidd adds that this double focus is necessary to combat the most serious problems in Kentucky-injuries and deaths resulting from motor-vehicle crashes, occupational causes (especially among the farming, construction, and logging industries), residential fires, and intimate partner violence.

KIPRC currently operates three programs-the Occupational Injury Prevention Program (OIPP), the Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Prevention Program and the State Injury Prevention Program.

The Occupational Injury Prevention Program (OIPP) focuses on occupational fatalities and burns, reducing injuries in small construction companies, and agricultural injuries. Of Kentucky's 146 occupational fatalities in 1997, 34-or 23 percent-were related to agriculture. The number of farming deaths in Kentucky is nearly three times the national rate. Many of those deaths were caused by tractor overturns.

"We'd eventually like to get those numbers to zero," says Tim Struttmann, program manager for KIPRC's Occupational Injury Prevention Program. "We know those deaths could be prevented with the use of ROPS (Rollover Protective Structures) and seat belts."

The Pediatric and Adolescent Injury Prevention Program (PAIPP) is composed of four projects focusing on general injury prevention, child fatalities, emergency medical services for children and occupational injury prevention among adolescents.

"Motor vehicle crashes cause the most injuries in Kentucky," says Robert McCool, program manager for KIPRC's Community Injury Prevention Program. "There are scientifically proven ways to prevent and reduce the severity of injuries associated with motor vehicle crashes. It is our job to get this information to local communities and help them solve injury problems." KIPRC provided data and educational information to the Kentucky General Assembly when the Graduated Licensing Law was passed in 1996.

"In the same way that cancer and heart disease are major causes of death for our older population, intentional and unintentional injury mortality is just as serious a problem for our younger population," says SIPP director Carl Spurlock, who adds, "These kinds of injuries are called accidents. Accident is a good word in the dictionary, but we don't use it. We're trying to change the prevailing attitude that you can't do anything about unintentional injuries because they are 'just accidents.' Essentially all accidents have a cause and could have been prevented. They are not just a matter of bad luck."

The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center is located at 333 Waller Ave., Suite 202, about three blocks from the University of Kentucky campus. For more information about the center, call (606) 257-4954 or check out the center's Web site at www.kiprc.uky.edu.