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Journal Article


Blank D. Inj. Prev. 2004; 10(6): 321-324.


Department of Pediatrics, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul School of Medicine, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil;


(Copyright © 2004, BMJ Publishing Group)








The injury problem in South America, as worrisome as in the rest of the world, bears some specific circumstances that are worthy of attention. First, up to 29 years, injuries account for nearly six million disability adjusted years of life lost each year--around 17% of the burden of disease.1 This means we face a graver public health problem than most.

Second, although the region is by and large free from wars, interpersonal violence has been a frighteningly growing cause of death and disablement from the age of 5 through adolescence.While homicide rates may be quite similar to those of high income nations in exceptional cases like Argentina and Chile, most figures are disturbing, particularly those from Brazil and Colombia, which are three to six times greater than those from the most violent of the developed countries

A third circumstance that stands out is the absolute predominance of male victims: even if we disregard homicides, females are consistently three to four times less likely to die from injury than males. This is a significantly larger gender gap than usual. If we focus on homicides, the disparity is even more stark; for instance, the odds of Colombian or Brazilian males rather than females being killed are over 10 to one.

Road traffic injuries are somewhat peculiar in South America, with both distinctive features and many shared with either developed or primitive societies. As in high income countries, traffic crashes are a leading cause of death among children 0-4 year--which is not usually the case in less developed regions--and remains the number one killer in school age children and teenagers.1 On the other hand, as in most poor countries, South American traffic is marked by quite diverse road usage, including the predominance of pedestrians and the presenceĆ¢??sometimes massiveĆ¢??of motorcycles, bicycles, and animal drawn vehicles.

The author comments on a wide variety of issues concerning the state-of-the-art of injury control in South America.


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