Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 29, 2003

U of G prof strives to reduce injuries in Canada

A University of Guelph psychology professor is part of a team of researchers combining their knowledge and resources in an effort to reduce the injuries that kill 13,000 Canadians and hospitalize 200,000 more every year.

Barbara Morrongiello, who has been studying risk taking and injury prevention for 10 years, and nine other researchers have received $1.2 million over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to complete their project, From Knowledge Generation to Knowledge Translation: A Systems Approach to Reducing the Burden of Injury in Canada.

Morrongiello and the other researchers from McMaster University, the Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, the British Columbia Injury Research and Prevention Unit, and the Institute for Work and Health in Toronto will take an interdisciplinary approach to examining unintentional injuries in children, the workforce and older adults, looking at injury risk factors from psychological, epidemiological and sociological perspectives.

"We've all come together as a team, and each academic centre will fund at least one graduate student for several years," said Morrongiello. "There are so few people doing substantive research in the area of injury prevention that it's hard to address gaps in knowledge and programming. This funding is allowing us to train the next generation of researchers."

The researchers hope to synthesize and integrate injury and prevention research from their various disciplines in order to determine the major types of injuries and how the burden of injury can be reduced. The results of their project could save taxpayers billions; in Canada, the direct and indirect annual costs of injury have been estimated to be $14.3 billion, according to a 1998 report commissioned by SmartRisk Foundation in Toronto.

The CIHR-funded project involves three steps: knowledge synthesis, prevention programming and evaluation of the prevention programs. "Our plan is to look at these three areas for children, young workers and the elderly to see where we need more work, then implement prevention programs proven effective in initial program-evaluation studies," said Morrongiello.

The researchers will focus on fall injuries in the elderly "because falls are the number one cause of deaths and hospitalization in that age group," she said. "A hip fracture is highly associated with death within a year. Fall prevention is really death prevention for older adults."

Young workers also have high rates of injury because they're often given the more dangerous jobs to do and receive limited safety training, she said. "Even though they have very high injury rates, there hasn't been a lot of systematic study of young workers' understanding of injury risk and safety rights on the job."

The third area of the study will focus on childhood injury because, much like the injury rates in the elderly, "childhood injury is the leading cause of death after two years of age and the leading cause of hospitalization," said Morrongiello.

Once the research is complete, the next step will be to put the findings into action, she said. The team has submitted a follow-up application to CIHR to establish a centre for injury research and prevention housed at McMaster University's Evidence-Based Practices Centre.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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