Violence and Injury Prevention

WHO launches new document on burn prevention and care

Burns are a serious health problem globally. Every year more than 300 000 people die from fires alone. More are killed by burns caused by hot liquids, electricity and chemicals. In addition, millions of people are disabled and disfigured by severe burns. Survivors of burns often lead a life complicated not only by the physical consequences of the burns, but also by stigma and discrimination related to the disability and disfigurement. This large burden of death and suffering is all that much more tragic as it is so preventable.

In high-income countries, considerable progress has been made in lowering rates of burn death by proven prevention efforts, such as smoke detectors, regulation of hot water heater temperature and flame resistant children's sleepwear, among others. In addition, improvements in the care of burn victims has also played an important role. Most of these advances in prevention and care have been minimally applied in low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority (95%) of burn deaths occur.

In order to address this large and neglected health problem, WHO has launched A WHO plan for burn prevention and care (Geneva, WHO, 2008). This plan has been developed in collaboration with the International Society for Burn Injuries (ISBI) and other partners. It was developed with the input of experts in burn prevention and care from 14 countries across the world.

The plan outlines what WHO would like to promote in terms of: advocacy, policy, data and measurement, research, prevention, health-care services for victims and capacity building. It includes activities that WHO itself commits to undertake in the near future as well what the entire field of burn prevention and control should be accomplishing in the coming decade. The plan is intended to catalyse efforts to improve the scenario for burn prevention and care and so to significantly diminish the burden of death and suffering from burns globally.

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