July 23, 2019 12:00 PM

U-M Injury Prevention Center Works to Accelerate the Science of Injury Prevention & Safety

Injuries are a leading cause of death — and completely preventable. To continue research in this area, the U-M Injury Prevention Center just received renewal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An opioid overdose. A concussion on the football field. A fall by an aging parent. A motor vehicle crash by a distracted driver texting.

These events have one thing in common: They result in injury.

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“Injury is the leading cause of death for people from 1 year old to 44 years old,” says Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Injury Prevention Center and interim vice president of research at U-M.

The center is one of only nine national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Injury Research Control Centers, funded by the CDC, that focuses on generating cutting-edge injury science and initiatives to prevent  and reduce injuries. In addition, the centers translate evidence-based programs to local and national communities while training the next generation of injury-prevention scientists and practitioners.

The U-M Injury Prevention Center just received approximately $7.2 million to continue its research, education and best-practice dissemination in injury prevention over the next five years.

“Due to advances in the field of injury prevention, motor vehicle crash rates have fallen substantially since the 1970s,” Cunningham says. “The application of these same public health principles to other areas of injury, by multidisciplinary teams, can have a similar impact on other injuries that affect our communities daily.”

The U-M Injury Prevention Center focuses specifically on prevention of opioid overdose, suicide, violence (including campus sexual assault, youth violence and intimate partner violence), concussion, motor vehicle crashes, falls prevention, and an emerging focus on adverse childhood events. 

Doctor image
"Injury is the leading cause of death for people from 1 year old to 44 years old, with opioid overdose surpassing motor vehicle deaths in our state and across the nation."
Rebecca Cunningham, M.D.

“Most injuries are predictable and preventable,” says Maureen Walton, Ph.D., MPH, senior associate director of the U-M Injury Prevention Center and a professor of psychiatry at Michigan Medicine. “This funding will allow us to continue to investigate how we can reduce the number of injuries occurring across the country.”

Collaborative effort

The U-M Injury Prevention Center not only is a partnership with the CDC, but also partners with schools and colleges across the University of Michigan, including the Medical School, School of Public Health, College of Engineering, School of Kinesiology, School of Social Work, School of Nursing and units across campus, such as the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, Institute for Clinical and Health Research, Transportation Research Institute and the Addiction Center.

In addition, the center partners with local and state health departments and federal and state law enforcement to move best practices in injury science into the field.

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“Injuries can be costly,” says Patrick Carter, M.D., assistant director of the U-M Injury Prevention Center and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Michigan Medicine. “The CDC estimates that injuries result in more than $671 billion annually in costs for medical care and lost work. By working with regional, state and local partners, we hope to decrease the burden of these injuries.”

The U-M Injury Prevention Center has more than 800 active members working to improve the science and dissemination of injury safety, and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. It welcomes new members.

“We aim to reduce injury by publishing innovative research, translating research into practice, disseminating that info into actionable findings for our communities and educating our fellow practitioners and policymakers,” Cunningham says.

The U-M Injury Prevention Center has completed several projects paving the way for injury research and prevention. These include hosting multiple state-of-the-science conferences and trainings for stakeholders providing up-to-date information and guidance on injury best practices, developing an opioid prevention intervention tool, developing a clinical care program to prevent youth violence and collaborating with law enforcement to create a real-time opioid overdose surveillance system for the state of Michigan.

Cunningham, Walton and Carter are excited for the new funding and the opportunity to continue to build upon the momentum the center and its members have created over the past decade.

“We’re generating cutting-edge injury-prevention science and translating it into actions for our communities,” Cunningham says.

“This grant, which leverages the strengths of a multidisciplinary team of experts and faculty across campus, will help us continue this important work and continue to educate the next generation of injury-prevention scientists, policymakers and practitioners.”