Arab Children’s Health Congress highlights Injury

According to the Emirate News Agency, the 4th Arab Children’s Health Congress – held last month in Dubai – focused on  “Prevention of Injuries Amongst Children.”

In addition to representative from WHO and UNICEF, the conference included representatives from 11 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

The resolutions adopted at the conclusion of the event are somewhat predictable: “develop a regional strategy for child injury prevention;” “set up national multisectoral agencies with resources and authority to plan, implement and evaluate injury prevention programmes; and “look to higher income countries for examples of sustained injury prevention success.” All well and good, of course, but short on specifics. It will be interesting to see which attendees can follow through.

More distressing to me, as one inherently suspicious of injury surveillance not tied directly to programmes empowered to direct prevention efforts, was the call to countries to establish “a national injury surveillance system with a standardized reporting system” and to” identify opportunities for building the national capacities on surveillance including data collection, analysis and interpretation.” My concern, detailed elsewhere, is that the resources and personnel devoted to surveillance efforts might be better used in translation and implementation of known effective child injury prevention programs. The delegates noted in the resolution that road traffic injury is a major issue for the region: why not focus on that problem and tie any surveillance into evaluation of a funded, sustained and evidence-informed prevention package?

Alternatively, another locus for meaningful surveillance was also highlighted in the resolutions: “Countries are encouraged to integrate child injury prevention and control programmes in the existing child survival programmes.” Placing injury squarely into the context of child survival goals is an excellent way to highlight the issue and to advocate for funding and resources, at a national level, to reflect the magnitude of the problem. I think this is a laudable approach and commend the delegates for emphasizing it.

Other highlights in the resolution were identification of priority areas for research (“child abuse, road traffic injuries, psychological impact of child injuries, cost effectiveness studies including intervention evaluation”); a call for improved injury research capabilities in the region; and an advocacy strategy that specifically reaches out to “parent groups, teachers and women.”

Planners, researchers and advocates in the Arab world can look for updates on progress next year. A Regional Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, originally planned for 2009, is apparently scheduled for February 2011.

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