VOLUME 6: NO. 3JULY 2009
An Injury Prevention Perspective on the
Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Suggested citation for this article: Pollack KM. An injury
prevention perspective on the childhood obesity epidem-
ic. Prev Chronic Dis 2009;6(3). http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/
issues/2009/jul/08_0258.htm. Accessed [date].
Physical activity during childhood and adolescence
is associated with many benefits, including decreased
adiposity, improved cardiovascular health and fitness,
reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, greater
global self-concept and esteem, and improved academic
performance (1,2). Physical activity is also an essential
component of a multifaceted approach to prevent or con-
trol obesity in children.
Many studies have investigated barriers and facilitators
of physical activity in children, but few mention injury
prevention and control. Injury prevention is characterized
by the use of multidisciplinary approaches (eg, epidemiol-
ogy, policy, behavioral science) to create safer products and
environments. Surprisingly, as interventions are devel-
oped to increase physical activity among children by pro-
moting the use of playgrounds, bicycle use, walking, and
participation in sports and recreation, information about
preventing injuries during these activities is scarce. This
lack of attention to injury prevention is a missed opportu-
nity for advocates of physical activity to address parents’
concerns about safety, which may be a barrier.
The purpose of this paper is to initiate discourse on the
value of including injury prevention and control as part of
public health strategies to increase physical activity among
youth. This article describes the connection between injury
prevention and physical activity, proposes the benefits of
using an injury prevention framework when developing
physical activity interventions, and recommends that an
injury prevention perspective on the childhood obesity
epidemic be used to guide future research.
Connecting Injury Prevention and Physical
Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for
children aged 19 years and younger. Most deaths result
from motor vehicle crashes, falls, burns, drowning, and
poisonings (3). The economic impact of childhood injuries
is substantial. Injuries to children result in an estimated
$14 billion in lifetime medical spending, $1 billion in other
resource costs (eg, caring for injured children), and $66
billion in present and future work losses (4).
Though some may not recognize it, the association
between injury prevention and physical activity has
existed for years. Several injury prevention interventions
have modified the built environment, making it easier for
people to be active safely. Traffic-calming measures, such
as sidewalks, have enhanced pedestrian safety. Laws that
restrict vehicle speeds encourage safe biking and walk-
ing. Regulations, such as bans on some forms of tackling,
have decreased catastrophic sports injuries. Although the
effectiveness of these interventions relies on adequate
enforcement, they create safe places and opportunities for
people to be active.
Advocates of physical activity to prevent or control obe-
sity often overlook the importance of injury prevention
when developing interventions. This is alarming because
injuries are a reason that people stop participating in
physical activity (5). Decreasing or eliminating the risk of
injury may encourage people to initiate physical activity or
continue being physically active.
The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the
Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and
does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2009/jul/08_0258.htm • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ?
Keshia M. Pollack, PhD, MPH