Why reducing injury in the community is important for health and wellbeing

Injury is a leading cause of morbidity and permanent disability in Australia and is the principal cause of death in people under 45 years of age (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018). Injuries cause a range of physical and psychological impacts that seriously affect the quality of life of injured people and their families. Injury is a complex public health issue that covers an extremely broad range of causes including transport, falls, drowning, suicide, assault, poisoning, burns/scalds, sporting injuries and workplace injuries.

What we want to achieve

  • Decrease injury across the population, with an emphasis on priority populations: children 0--14 years, young adults 15--24 years, older adults 65+, Aboriginal Victorians and rural populations

This page includes links to evidence-based guidance to assist partners in the implementation of actions to reduce injury in the community across a range of settings.

  • Actions in early childhood settings and schools

    By using a whole-of-organisation approach that includes staff, students, families and the wider community, early childhood services and schools are ideally placed to improve health behaviours which can help prevent chronic disease and injury, support better learning outcomes and set children and adults up with healthy habits for life. Early childhood services and schools are also workplaces and have a valuable opportunity to positively influence healthy behaviour of the people who spend time there (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    The Achievement Program provides guidance and support for education settings to become healthier places for their communities. The program is a free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create healthier places, provides links to best-practice resources and case studies, and provides Victorian government recognition once applicable standards have been met.

    Early childhood settings and schools are encouraged to use the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit's Injury Atlas of Victoria, when planning local injury prevention initiatives. The injury Atlas is an online data tool which provides de-identified hospital treated unintentional injury data for government, community organisations and the Victorian community in an accessible format. An up to date web browser is required.

    Evidence-based actions that early childhood services or schools can take to reduce injury in the community and become a healthier place include:

    Create safe environments which prevent unintentional injury and promote inclusivity.

    A safe environment is designed to prevent unintentional injury and to promote inclusivity. This means creating school and early childhood facilities that promote healthy behaviours, comply with safety guidelines, and ensure all students can move around with ease, regardless of their ability. It also means creating an environment that is free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment, and where all students and staff feel supported.

    Educational programs which target safety behaviours should be evidence-based and support students to develop the required skills and competency to act in safe ways.

    • Ensure the school or service buildings, grounds, facilities and equipment are safe for all users and promote healthy choices and lifestyles.
      • Ensure common areas, such as play equipment and sporting grounds, promote physical safety and conduct regular checks to identify risks or hazards.
      • Ensure staff and students wear appropriate protective equipment when necessary to reduce injury risk, including sun protection when outdoors, mouth guards during sports activities and appropriate personal protective equipment and clothing when working in science labs.
      • Discuss the meaning of safety signs around the school or service with students and regularly practice emergency evacuation drills.
      • Implement a system for hazard reporting and resolution and communicate this to your school or service community.
      • Approach local government to explore solutions if traffic hazards are nearby.
    • Provide students, families and staff with information and practical strategies to support safety in the school and at home.
      • Share information about safety and wellbeing among the school community, such as displays, newsletters, and at orientation days.
      • Undertake child-specific first aid training, including training on anaphylaxis, asthma and other medical conditions.
      • Ensure educational programs targeting safe behaviour, for example road safety, are evidence-based, targeting skill and competency development in students and young people.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in local government

    Local government is ideally placed to develop, lead and implement local policies to influence many determinants of health. These policies include actions in areas such as transport, roads, parks, waste, land use, housing and urban planning, recreation and cultural activities and creating safe public places.

    Local government is also a major employer in many communities (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, local councils are required to protect, improve and promote public health and wellbeing within their municipality and prepare a municipal public health and wellbeing plan (MPHWP) every four years. They also have a role in the regulation of safety barriers for pools and spas under the Building Regulations 2018.

    Local government has a broad role in health promotion, the provision of health services such as immunisation, early childhood services, services and programs for older people and other services such as libraries.

    Local government is encouraged to use the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit's Injury Atlas of Victoria, when planning local injury prevention initiatives. The injury Atlas is an online data tool which provides de-identified hospital treated unintentional injury data for government, community organisations and the Victorian community in an accessible format. An up to date web browser is required.

    Evidence-based actions that local government can take on reducing injury in the community include:

    Prioritise the needs of vulnerable community members and road users when planning and designing neighbourhoods and public places

    Falls are the leading cause of injury in Victoria. Falls made up around half of all injury related hospital admissions and 77 per cent of injury admissions among older adults in 2017-2018. The built environment has a major influence on the ability of older people, people with disabilities and children, to move around independently. Local government has an important role to play in enabling older people to remain physically active and independent and ensuring neighbourhoods and public places are accessible for people with disability.

    Age-friendly environments enable older people to remain independent and healthy and reduce the need for support services. For example, pavements and footpaths are smooth, level and non-slip, sufficient in width with clearance from obstructions. Pedestrian crossings are safe, places are designed for accessibility and include places to sit, safe walkways and cycle paths, and appropriate public toilets.

    Pedestrians and cyclists are at increased risk of transport-related injury on local roads due to their lack of physical protection. Prioritising vulnerable road users in the design of local roads will reduce transport-related injuries, while supporting people to adopt active modes of transport.

    • Plan and design age friendly cities, to enable active aging.
    • Incorporate universal design principles when designing public buildings and spaces to ensure safety and accessibility for everyone regardless of age, ability or disability.
    • Partner with local schools to develop safe routes to school and address local traffic hazards.
    • Improve movement networks to allow all people to travel safely, prioritise walking, cycling and public transport.
    • Ensure public areas, such as play equipment and sporting grounds, promote physical safety and conduct regular checks to identify risks or hazards.

    Resources on this topic include:

    Provide a range of local initiatives which target injury prevention priorities for different groups and whole of community initiatives

    Unintentional injuries are broad ranging, encompassing falls, transport injuries, burns, and drownings. Targeted strategies are appropriate to respond to local needs and community priorities.

    Child injury prevention activities could include, awareness raising around child injury prevention issues or ensuring playground equipment promotes physical safety.

    Injury prevention activities for older adults could include activities undertaken in partnership with community organisations or local health services, for example the provision of exercise groups for older people or fostering linkages between support services for older people and local healthcare providers.

    Evidence informed actions which contribute to falls prevention in older adults.

    • initiatives which provide opportunities for older adults to participate in physical activity including:
      • providing age-friendly walking paths
      • partnering with community organisations to provide appropriate exercise classes for older adults, for example, strength based training or Tai Chi
      • partnering with NARI (National Ageing Research Institute) to provide the Seniors Exercise Park
    • partnering with community organisations, or healthcare providers to deliver falls prevention programs
    • fostering linkages between home-based support services for older people and local healthcare providers and ensuring mechanisms exist to facilitate referrals of clients where required to support their independence.

    Evidence informed child injury prevention initiatives could include:

    • partnering with Kidsafe to provide Kidsafe's community outreach program
    • using Kidsafe resources to share injury prevention information or partnering with Kidsafe to run a local child injury prevention awareness campaign
    • ensure play equipment promotes physical safety and conduct regular checks to identify risks or hazards.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in health and human services

    Health and human services are key players in Victoria's injury prevention system. Health Services provide medical care and rehabilitation and preventative healthcare to Victorians who are injured.

    Health services make a major contribution to injury prevention through the delivery of clinical care which incorporates or focuses upon individualised prevention strategies. The healthcare system encompasses many skilled professionals who provide preventative healthcare to individuals with health conditions and individuals at risk of falls related injuries. Key policy includes Health 2040: advancing health access and care. Health services also implement settings-based falls prevention initiatives to reduce the incidence of falls in hospital settings.

    The role of healthcare services, in supporting population based primary prevention efforts under the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019-2023, includes activities which aim to reduce the need for clinical health services. For example, incorporating lifestyle counselling within care and partnering with community organisations to provide and support local exercise groups for older people.

    Human services also have an important role to play in falls prevention as they have regular contact with their clients and are well placed to facilitate access to appropriate health and community services when required.

    Health and Human services providing care to children are uniquely placed to address child injury issues through the provision of up to date child safety and injury prevention information to parents.

    Health and human services are also major employers in many communities, employees in these sectors are at increased risk of sustaining manual handling injuries (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Health and Human services are encouraged to use the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit's Injury Atlas of Victoria, when planning local injury prevention initiatives. The injury Atlas is an online data tool which provides de-identified hospital treated unintentional injury data for government, community organisations and the Victorian community in an accessible format. An up to date web browser is required.

    Evidence-based actions that a health or human service can take to reduce injury in the community and become a healthier place include:

    Support the health and human services workforce and build workforce capability for injury prevention (for falls prevention and child injury prevention)

    Evidence suggests that advice provided by healthcare professionals, particularly medical professionals, is highly valued and may support behaviour change efforts. Healthcare professionals are trained to identify individual injury risk factors and provide tailored prevention strategies.

    Human services have regular contact with their clients and are ideally placed to facilitate their client's referral to trained health professionals when at risk of injury.

    Evidence-based actions could include:

    • building health and human workforce capability for prevention (this may include training).
    • Human services (providing services to older people and people with disability) could ensure staff are supported to identify when clients may be at risk of falls and facilitate referrals to appropriate healthcare providers.
    • Human services (providing services to children and families) should ensure organisational policies regarding the use of child restraints (car seats) align with best practice.

    Resources on this topic include:

    Partner with other community organisations to address local injury prevention priorities

    • For example, offering opportunities for older adults to participate in physical activity will support broader prevention efforts including primary and secondary prevention of falls. Maintaining an active lifestyle is often an important aspect of self-managing a chronic health condition. Mainstream exercise classes are not often appropriate or accessible for older people or people with chronic health conditions.
    • Appropriate exercise classes for older adults enable active aging which can in turn reduce reliance on health and human services in later years.

    Evidence-based actions could include:

    • Health services could provide and display information about local, affordable, appropriate exercise classes for older people.
    • In relation to preventing injuries to children, Maternal Child Health Services could partner with Kidsafe to deliver home safety information sessions for parents.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in workplaces

    WorkSafe Victoria provide industry specific resources to assist employers meet their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) and accompanying Regulations, to provide a safe working environment and reduce health and safety risks within workplaces.

    In addition, the Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program provides guidance and support for workplaces to become healthier places for their employees. The program is a voluntary, free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create a healthy place, links members to best-practice resources and examples, supported by local experts to support workplaces on their journey and provides Victorian Government recognition once these standards have been met.

    Resources on this topic include: