Anaheim, CA – The National Safety Council 96th Annual Congress & Expo opened today with an address by NSC President & CEO Janet Froetscher asking the thousands of safety professionals in attendance to take action to address the significant causes of injury and injury-related deaths in America.
“In the last 15 years, we have seen a 19 percent reduction in the United States’ death rates from injuries in both workplaces and from motor vehicles,” Froetscher said. “There is much more to do in each of these areas, but we are making progress. However, during the same time, the injury death rate in our homes and communities has increased by 44 percent. One reason for this increase is that the level of investment in the public and private sectors to prevent injuries in homes and communities has been considerably lower than in workplaces and on the roads."
Froetscher identified the two most significant home and community safety issues leading to the increase in deaths — unintentional drug overdoses and elderly falls. In 2006, an estimated 24,000 people died in the U.S. from unintentional drug overdoses, which represents a 100 percent increase since 2000.
A 2005 study from the Centers for Disease Control reported that 50 percent of the 22,400 fatal drug overdoses that year were from prescription and over-the-counter medications, 39 percent of deaths were from illegal drugs, and 11 percent of overdose deaths were from unknown drugs. Drug overdoses have now surpassed drunken driving as the single largest cause of unintentional injury death in America.
Prescription pain killers (opioid analgesics), such as oxycodone, methadone and hydrocodone, are the primary contributor to the rapid increase in drug overdose deaths, Froetscher said. A recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reports that 10.8 million people age 18 and older used a prescription pain medicine for non-medical purposes within the past year.
“We will advocate for additional resources to be directed to research to better understand the problem," Froetscher said. "We also will bring together government, the private sector, nonprofits and other involved parties to develop strategies to address it,” she said.
Falls among the elderly claimed 16,000 lives in 2006, a 45 percent increase since 2000. NSC is an advocate for additional research and creation of effective education for the elderly, their families, and the health care and medical communities. Froetscher noted that the U.S. Senate is expected to adopt a resolution proclaiming today as National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.
Opening Session keynote speaker William Bennett, television commentator, radio host, former U.S. Secretary of Education and former “Drug Czar”, echoed Froetscher's concern about drug overdoses. His comments focused on the toll prescription drug overdoses are taking on our nation and its workplaces.
The National Safety Council (nsc.org) saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads through leadership, research, education and advocacy.