Injury Prevention in Vermont: The Facts Hurt

A five year old boy is in the emergency department waiting to be transferred to a specialty hospital for emergent neurosurgery for internal bleeding within the skull seen on CT scan. The boy was riding his bicycle without a bike helmet when he lost his balance and struck his head on the sidewalk. The event was witness by his parents. Vermont is one of 29 states that do not require bike helmets for children. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of one and 44 years in the United States. Last month, a report card on injury prevention was issued for every state. The report, The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report was developed by leading injury prevention experts from the Safe States Alliance and the Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research. This report concludes that millions of injuries could be prevented each year if more states adopted, implemented, and enforced research-based injury prevention policies. Unfortunately, there is a lack of national funding for injury prevention which is a major barrier for states adopting such policies.

Vermont had the twenty-third highest rate of injury deaths in the United States with 61.3 per 100,000 people. Further, the total lifetime medical costs due to fatal injury in Vermont were $4.3 million. The estimated total lifetime work loss costs due to fatal injuries in Vermont were $322 million.

The Facts Hurt Report includes a report card for how well states score on 10 key indicators of steps that states can take to prevent injuries. Vermont scored five out of 10 on key indicators. Vermont did not receive any points for the following indicators: having a primary seat belt law, mandatory ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, even first offenders, requiring bicycle helmets for all children, receiving an “A” in the Break the Cycle Report, and having a strong concussion law.

Vermont did however score one point for each of the following five indicators: universal motorcycle helmet law requiring helmets for all riders, meeting the American Academy of Pediatrics standards for booster seats to age 8 years, allowing people in dating relationships to get protection orders, having an active prescription drug monitoring program, and having more than 90% of injury discharges from the emergency department receive external cause of injury codes which help researchers track trends and develop prevention strategies

So, how can you lower the number of injuries in Vermont? In the report there are recommendations for each of the 10 indicators. These evidence based approaches have been shown to decrease the number of injuries in the US. Your increased awareness will help you make healthier and safer decisions for you and your family concerning injury prevention. For more information visit



 Dr. Jane L. Uva, MD, MPH is an emergency department physician and also works in the occupational health department at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. To learn more about SVMC visit “Health Matters” is a weekly column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.