Ronan Lyons and colleagues compared the population burden of injuries using different approaches from the UK Burden of Injury and Global Burden of Disease studies and find that the absolute UK burden of injury is higher than previously estimated.
Current methods of measuring the population burden of injuries rely on many assumptions and limited data available to the global burden of diseases (GBD) studies. The aim of this study was to compare the population burden of injuries using different approaches from the UK Burden of Injury (UKBOI) and GBD studies.
Methods and Findings
The UKBOI was a prospective cohort of 1,517 injured individuals that collected patient-reported outcomes. Extrapolated outcome data were combined with multiple sources of morbidity and mortality data to derive population metrics of the burden of injury in the UK. Participants were injured patients recruited from hospitals in four UK cities and towns: Swansea, Nottingham, Bristol, and Guildford, between September 2005 and April 2007. Patient-reported changes in quality of life using the EQ-5D at baseline, 1, 4, and 12 months after injury provided disability weights used to calculate the years lived with disability (YLDs) component of disability adjusted life years (DALYs). DALYs were calculated for the UK and extrapolated to global estimates using both UKBOI and GBD disability weights. Estimated numbers (and rates per 100,000) for UK population extrapolations were 750,999 (1,240) for hospital admissions, 7,982,947 (13,339) for emergency department (ED) attendances, and 22,185 (36.8) for injury-related deaths in 2005. Nonadmitted ED-treated injuries accounted for 67% of YLDs. Estimates for UK DALYs amounted to 1,771,486 (82% due to YLDs), compared with 669,822 (52% due to YLDs) using the GBD approach. Extrapolating patient-derived disability weights to GBD estimates would increase injury-related DALYs 2.6-fold.
The use of disability weights derived from patient experiences combined with additional morbidity data on ED-treated patients and inpatients suggests that the absolute burden of injury is higher than previously estimated. These findings have substantial implications for improving measurement of the national and global burden of injury.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Injuries—resulting from traffic collisions, drowning, poisoning, falls or burns, and violence from assault, self-inflicted violence, or acts of war—kill more than 5 million people worldwide every year and cause harm to millions more. Injuries account for at least 9% of global mortality and are a threat to health in every country of the world. Furthermore, for every death-related injury, dozens of injured people are admitted to hospitals, hundreds visit emergency rooms, and thousands go to see their doctors by appointment. A large proportion of people surviving their injuries will be left with temporary or permanent disabilities.
The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors (GBD) Studies are instrumental in quantifying the burden of injuries placed on society and are essential for the public health response, priority setting, and policy development. Central to the GBD methodology is the concept of Disability Adjusted Life years (DALYs), and a combination of premature mortality, referred to as years of life lost and years lived with disability. However, rather than evidence and measurements, the GBD Study used panel studies and expert opinion to estimate weights and durations of disability. Therefore, although the GBD has been a major development, it may have underestimated the population burden.
Why Was This Study Done?
Accurate measurement of the burden of injuries is essential to ensure adequate policy responses to prevention and treatment. In this study, the researchers aimed to overcome the limitations of previous studies and for the first time, measured the population burden of injuries in the UK using a combination of disability and morbidity metrics, including years of life lost, and years lived with disabilities.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited patients aged over 5 years with a wide range of injuries (including fractures and dislocations, lacerations, bruises and abrasions, sprains, burns and scalds, and head, eye, thorax, and abdominal injuries) from hospitals in four English cities—Swansea, Nottingham, Bristol, and Guildford—between September 2005 and April 2007. The researchers collected data on injury-related mortality, hospital admissions, and attendances to emergency rooms. They also invited patients (or their proxy, if participants were young children) to complete a self-administered questionnaire at recruitment and at 1, 4, and 12 months postinjury to allow data collection on injury characteristics, use of health and social services, time off work, and recovery from injury, in addition to sociodemographic and economic and occupational characteristics. The researchers also used standardized tools to measure health-related quality of life and work problems. Then, the researchers used these patient-reported changes to calculate DALYs for the UK and then extrapolated these results to calculate global estimates.
In the four study sites, a total of 1,517 injured people (median age of 37.4 years and 53.9% male) participated in the study. The researchers found that the vast majority of injuries were unintentional and that the home was the most frequent location of injury. Using the data and information collected from the questionnaires, the researchers extrapolated their results and found that in 2005, there were an estimated 750,999 injury-related hospital admissions, 7,982,947 emergency room attendances, and 22,185 injury-related deaths, translating to a rate per 100,000 of 1,240, 13,339, and 36.8, respectively. The researchers estimated UK DALYs related to injury to be 1,771,486 compared with 669,822 using the GBD approach. Furthermore, the researchers found that extrapolating patient-derived disability weights to GBD estimates would increase injury-related DALYs 2.6-fold.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study suggest that, when using data and information derived from patient experiences, combined with additional morbidity data on patients treated in emergency rooms and those, admitted to hospital, the absolute burden of injury is higher than previously estimated. While this study was carried out in the UK the principal findings are relevant to other countries. However, measurement of the population burden of injuries requires access to high quality data, which may be difficult in less affluent countries, and these data rely on access to health facilities, which is often restricted in resource-limited settings. Despite these concerns, these findings have substantial implications for improving measurements of the national and global burden of injury.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001140.
The World Health Organization website provides detailed information about injuries and also details the work of the Global Burden of Disease Study
The Global Burden of Injury's website is a portal to websites run by groups conducting ongoing research into the measurement of global injury metrics