Injury, or trauma, is defined as any bodily damage resulting from sudden exposure to thermal, mechanical, electrical, or chemical energy. In the United States and around the world, injury is the leading cause of death for the first half of the human lifespan and a regular source of disability and disfigurement. Each day in the US, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children are injured severely enough to seek medical care. Hundreds of Americans will sustain long-term disabilities due to their injuries and hundreds more will die. Globally, tens of thousands of people die from injuries each day and this incidence is growing.
Injury clearly deserves attention as a leading cause of death and disability in the US and around the world. Injury also deserves attention because it occurs as part of a unique disease process: violence, suicide, falls, and automobile crashes are all disease-generating events that can very suddenly kill or disable otherwise healthy people. This is in contrast to other leading causes of death, which generally become noticeable only after months or years of risk exposure. Thus, injury develops in a fraction of a second, often after a similarly sudden exposure to one or more risk factors, making its epidemiologic study and prevention especially challenging.
Scientific investigations of injury, as a disease, have not generally been on par with those of other leading diseases. Contemporary injury research suffers from a pervasive lack of scientific rigor. Sound, yet highly innovative science is needed to better understand the unique disease process of injury and reduce its substantial burden to the public's health. In order to do this, injury research must move beyond isolated, disciplinary investigations to an interdisciplinary approach that addresses the full continuum of the disease: from its precursors and actual occurrence to its acute management and long-term consequences.
The pluralism of injury research, as evidenced by its close ties to at least three different cabinet-level agencies in the US – Health and Human Services, Justice, and Transportation, makes the development of "injury science" an important undertaking, so much so that it was one of three areas cited by the Institute of Medicine as highly suitable for interdisciplinary study. In this regard, the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania is a leader in the scientific study of injury. Many investigators conduct injury epidemiology research through the Department and prominently contribute to better understanding and prevention of injuries including those specifically related to children, the elderly, cars, motorcycles, firearms, intimate partner violence, playgrounds, suicide, alcohol, ARDS, trauma centers, emergency medical services, and the built environment.
- Charles Branas, PhD (program leader)
- Elizabeth R. Alpern, MD, MSCE
- Brandan G. Carr, MD, MS
- Jason Christie, MD, MSCE
- Peter Cronholm, MD, MSCE
- Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE
- Wensheng Guo, PhD
- John H. Holmes, PhD
- Donald Schwarz, MD, MPH
- Kathy Shaw, MD, MSCE
- Justine Shults, PhD
- Lucy Wolf Tuton, PhD
- Douglas Wiebe, PhD
- Dawei Xie, PhD