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Journal Article


Langley JD. Inj. Prev. 2008; 14(5): 342.


(Copyright © 2008, BMJ Publishing Group)






The use of standard nomenclature is an important tool of communication in science, yet WHO and CDC are departing from commonly accepted definitions. At the 9th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, I attended a plenary session where Dr Krug discussed “WHO plans for Injury Control for the next 3 years,” and Dr Arias discussed “ CDC Plans for Injury Control for the next 3 years.” I was struck by the fact that both presenters talked about “injury and violence prevention.” In this context, the use of the term “injury” appeared to be referring to unintentional injury, and the use of the term “violence” appeared to cover intentional self-harm, and injuries intentional inflicted by others. Yet at no point did the two speakers explicitly spell this out.

This usage of terms is at variance with common practice in the field. For example, this journal and many of its readers have always worked under the assumption that injury prevention covers all dimensions of intent. Similarly, web definitions of the term “violence” are remarkably consistent in defining violence in terms acts of aggression by a third party.

I turned to the agencies’ respective websites to seek an explanation of their use of the term. The first thing I noted was that the CDC center is referred to as National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. This contrasts with the WHO site, where the term violence is used in the title of the centre: “Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability (VIP).” On both sites, violence refers to intentional self-harm and injuries intentionally inflicted by others. Nowhere could I find any explanation for this non-traditional use of the term “violence.”

This letter should not be misconstrued as me necessarily being against this use of the term violence. I could imagine that there would be political merit in its usage. By relabeling intentional injury, we may increase our chances of connecting with those outside public health and in so doing get intentional injury on the political agenda.

I would be grateful if both Directors could explain what led their organizations to use the term violence to mean intentional self-harm and injuries intentionally inflicted by others. Assuming they believe the benefits of this usage outweigh the costs, how do they propose to deal with the fact that the use of the term “injury” within phrases such “Violence and injury prevention” does not adequately convey the intent of its usage, namely reference solely to unintentional injury?


Language: en


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