Injuries are costly and preventable

Author Cora Peterson has contributed to this blog post on two recent publications: “Average medical cost of fatal and nonfatal injuries by type in the USA” and “Average lost work productivity due to nonfatal injuries by type in the United States”.

Cora Peterson is an economist in the Data Analytics Branch, Division of Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unintentional and violence-related injuries—including motor vehicle crashes, drug overdose, falls, suicide, and assaults—constitute a huge health and cost burden in the United States. More than 30 million emergency department (ED) visits occur each year for non-fatal injuries each year, and medical expenditures for injury and poisoning exceed $133 billion annually.

Injuries are costly and preventable. Accurate estimates of attributable medical care and work loss are important to monitor the economic burden of injuries and help to prioritize cost-effective public health prevention activities. Two new studies estimate average per-person costs due to injuries in the United States comprehensively by injury type based on injury cause (e.g., motor vehicle crash) and injured body region (e.g., head and neck).

Using large multi-state and national databases of hospital care and medical claims, researchers compared medical care and work loss among individuals with and without injuries. Given the size and scope of the data sources, these methods allowed researchers to estimate per-person costs by injury type. For example, the average medical care cost of a self-inflicted cut/pierce injury, and the average lost work productivity attributable to a fall injury were calculated. These costs by injury type are comprehensively reported in online supplementary tables that accompany the Injury Prevention articles.

Key findings from the medical care cost analysis include:

  • The average, one-year, per-person medical cost of nonfatal injuries (all types) initially treated in an ED was approximately $6,620 (2015 USD).
  • The cost range by injury type was $1,698 (for injuries uncategorized by mechanism and with undetermined intent) to $80,172 (for spinal cord fractures).

Key findings from the lost work productivity analysis include:

  • The average number of lost workdays per person due to a nonfatal injury was 11 days.
  • The range by injury cause was 1.5 days (bites and stings) to 44.1 days (motorcycle injuries).
  • The range by body region was 4.0 days (other head, face, and neck injuries) to 19.8 days (traumatic brain injuries).

Injuries are a leading cause of mortality, morbidity, and health care costs in the United States. Accurate estimates of medical cost and work loss due to injuries are important in prioritizing public health prevention activities.

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