Implementing, enforcing policies can improve bottom line, study suggests
Prescription drug abuse, texting, and falls by older adults are among the emerging injury threats cited in a new study. It suggests policymakers and others implement and enforce policies to reduce preventable injuries.
More than $400 billion is spent annually in lifetime costs for medical care and lost productivity resulting from injuries. While the report focuses on steps states can take to prevent injuries, the recommendations are also appropriate for employers trying to reduce workers’ comp costs and improve their bottom lines.
Injuries are the third-leading cause of deaths nationally, according to the researchers. Among the most common types are:
- Falls. “More than eight million Americans suffer falls that require medical attention each year,” it says. One in three people age 65 and older experiences a fall annually, and falls are the leading cause of injury deaths in adults over 65 years of age. Falls can be reduced “by as much as half” among participants involved in exercise programs.
- Violence. Injuries caused by intimate partners alone cause more than 2,000 deaths a year. Nearly three in 10 women and one in 10 men have experienced physical violence, rape, or stalking by a partner.
- Misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. The report notes the dramatic increase in the past decade, saying prescription painkillers are responsible for approximately 15,000 deaths and 475,000 emergency room visits a year.
For employers, injuries mean lost productivity as well as increased workers’ comp and health care costs. Adults between the ages of 25 and 44 comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population but account for 44 percent of injury-related productivity losses.
Overall, businesses lose $326 billion in productivity annually due to injuries. Motor vehicle and other road-related accidents are responsible for $75 billion of the total while falls account for $54 billion, and struck by or against costs $37 billion.
“Many injuries are predictable, preventable and controllable,” according to the study. “For instance, researchers found that seat belts can greatly reduce the harm caused to individuals in motor vehicle crashes.”
The study, The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, cites research showing seat belts saved an estimated 69,000 lives between 2006 and 2010. However, 18 states do not have primary seat belt laws.
Thirty-one states do not require helmets for all motorcycle riders, although research says they saved an estimated 8,000 lives from 2005 to 2009.
The researchers ranked the states in terms of their injury prevention efforts based on 10 key indicators. They included whether the state has enacted a prescription drug monitoring program, whether it has a primary seat belt law, and whether it requires a helmet for all motorcycle riders.
California and New York received the highest score while Montana and Ohio netted the lowest.
“Millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted additional research-based prevention policies and if programs were fully implemented and enforced,” the report says.
“We could dramatically bring down rates of injuries from motor vehicles, assaults, falls, fires and a range of other risks even more if more states adopted, enforced and implemented proven policies,” said Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance. Hers was one of several groups that teamed up with the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the study.