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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.86 n.6 Genebra Jun. 2008 



Child injuries and violence: the new challenge for child health



Charles MockI,1; Margie PedenI; Adnan A HyderII; Alexander ButchartI; Etienne KrugI

IDepartment of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
IIInternational Injury Research Unit, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, United States of America



Injuries and violence are a significant and growing cause of child death and disability, as well as having other health consequences including mental health, behavioural and reproductive health problems. Every year injuries and violence kill approximately 875 000 children (aged less than 18 years of age) and injure or disable tens of millions more. Injury-related causes account for 3 of the top 15 killers of children aged 0–4 years and for 6 of the top 15 killers of children aged 5–14 years. Child maltreatment has been associated with significantly increased risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempt, smoking and sexually transmitted disease. The burden from child injury is most felt in low- and middle-income countries, where 95% of all child-injury deaths occur, and where recorded rates of child maltreatment are substantially higher than in high-income countries.

This huge public health problem is all that much more tragic because it is avoidable. Through combinations of prevention and care, most high-income countries have considerably reduced rates of child-injury death and child maltreatment. Consequently, there are huge inequities globally, with annual child-injury mortality of 8.6/100 000 in high-income countries compared with 41.8/100 000 in low- and middle-income countries.1 In other words, rates of child-injury death are more than four times higher in low- and middle-income countries.

A large burden of death and morbidity could be avoided by bringing violence and injury rates in low- and middle-income countries down to levels similar to those in high-income countries. Such public health benefits could be achieved by use of proven prevention methods, such as implementing and enforcing safety legislation and standards; promoting home and transport safety; modifying products or the environment; and improving care and rehabilitation of injured children. Programmes to promote safe, sustainable and nurturing relationships between children and their parents or caregivers can substantially reduce child maltreatment, and youth violence prevention programmes can significantly reduce violence-related death and injury in adolescents.

These strategies, most of which are affordable and sustainable in all countries, need to be better applied globally. Child injury and violence need to be better incorporated into broader child survival strategies.

Child injury and violence have been only minimally addressed thus far by the global health community and by most governments. Likewise, these topics have been inadequately addressed in the scientific literature. An upcoming theme issue of the Bulletin (May 2009) on child injury and violence will seek to address these shortcomings, to promote greater attention to these significant public health problems, to promote greater uptake of known effective prevention and treatment interventions globally, and to stimulate more research on low-cost and sustainable ways to confront these problems especially in low- and middle-income countries where most children live.

The Bulletin theme issue will examine the spectrum of child injury and violence prevention and control including epidemiology, prevention, care and rehabilitation. It will contain papers in the categories of Perspectives, Policy and practice, Research, and Lessons from the field.

Several papers will be commissioned. In addition, submissions from interested authors are highly encouraged. We welcome papers for all sections of the Bulletin that focus on any of the following topics: surveillance and data collection; evaluation of methods to prevent unintentional injury and violence; health systems strengthening or financing for child injury and violence prevention interventions; or methods for strengthening emergency care and/or rehabilitation of injured and maltreated children. We would especially encourage papers that go beyond the health perspective to address the cross-sectoral nature of the problem. For example, papers on transport safety could encompass the multi-sectoral nature of road traffic injury, including human behaviour, roadway infrastructure and vehicle design, and broader issues of urban design. Papers on violence could include coverage of the multi-dimensional determinants of violence, including parenting, childhood exposures and subsequent health and social consequences, and societal-level factors such as socio-economic disparities. Likewise, papers examining responses to violence could discuss actions involving the educational, welfare and criminal justice sectors, as well as the health sector.

Papers discussing how child injury and violence issues can be better addressed in the broader child survival and global health agendas are encouraged. These could include discussions of the relationship of child injury and violence and Millennium Development Goals such as Goal 4 (reducing child mortality). Papers from authors in developing countries are especially encouraged.

It is hoped that the papers in this issue will contribute important information that will assist public health practitioners, clinicians, researchers and policy-makers to better confront the eminently preventable problem of child injury and violence.

The deadline for submissions is 1 September 2008. Manuscripts should be submitted to: respecting the Guidelines for Contributors and accompanied by a cover letter mentioning this call for papers. All submissions will go through the Bulletin's peer review process.



1. Global Burden of Disease Database, version 5. Geneva: WHO; 2002.         [ Links ]



1 Correspondence to Charles Mock (e-mail: