Skip to Content


"Intentional and unintentional injuries" are the leading cause of death throughout the world. Intentional injury, as through aggression causes the greatest numbers. However, in those countries, that are war free,"unintentional injuries" or what people commonly refer to, as "accidents" are the leading cause of death and hospitalizations.

But Injuries are NOT Accidents

The ordinary person is unaware of the magnitude of the problem. The people who do know, are the doctors and health care staff in hospitals who treat injuries every day.

They have been getting together all over the world to work on what can be done to reduce the needless suffering. I have learned about this by attending some of their conferences. From them, I have learned how as a Canadian, the economic burden to the health care system and man-hours lost due to injury, costs us more than $10 billion a year. In the U.S. this would be around $1000 billion. I have learned about the World Health Organization (WHO) and other Health Care Professionals term Injury is a Disease because of its epidemic proportions and costs to our Health Care systems. I have learned how researchers are working on the 3 "E's" of injury prevention, Education and Engineering (or removing hazards) in an Environment.

But what I have learned most of all from them, is that the simple change of the use of one word can, in more likelihood create the biggest difference in preventing injury. I know it did for me. That word is the word, "Accident."

What the professionals in Injury Prevention want us to do is think. Stopping to notice the words we use, can lead us to a change in thinking. Change in thinking leads to change in action: enabling us to become pro-active, and avoid injuries rather than allowing them to happen. Studies by health care workers show that injuries are not random, but have distinct patterns. Knowing these patterns gives us the ability to avoid them. We have enough knowledge and resources in our world today to prevent a large proportion of injuries.

Baby and Children safety is probably one of the biggest areas where there is acceptance of the word "accident." We have come to accept that "accidents will happen." But babies do not need to stick things in outlets, drown in a toilets, fall down stairs, off of changing tables, or grandma's bed. Children do not need to risk hitting their head while biking or getting concussions while participating in sports activities. We can do something to avoid these from happening, through our thinking (Education) and Engineering their Environment.

On first thought you may find this is just playing with semantics and you will join many academics, who have argued the same. But give it a shot. Next time you are tempted to use the "A" word, stop to think, and then say a more correct word like "injury", "fall", "crash", "collision", even "boo boo" and by doing so, you too will realize the difference it can make.

Nancy Reynolds