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State steps up trauma treatment efforts

Do you know the No. 1 killer of Hoosiers younger than 45? It is injury, more specifically trauma.

Motor vehicle fatalities are a special challenge for Indiana, as our state ranks first in the nation for interstate highway miles per land area. And even though the death rate has decreased in the last 10 years, motor vehicle fatalities remain the No. 1 killer of Hoosiers ages 5-24.

Injury and trauma are more problematic for our rural areas. Sixty percent of all trauma deaths occur in areas of the United States where only 25 percent of the population lives.

In the LaGrange, Steuben, Noble, DeKalb, Whitley, Allen, Miami, Wabash, Huntington, Wells and Adams county area that makes up your local health preparedness district, there were 1,148 trauma hospitalizations from falls in 2009. Falls were the largest cause of trauma hospitalizations for your district and the state. Forty-two people died in falls in this district.

Motor vehicle accidents were the next most common cause of trauma hospitalization in the district, with 325 people hospitalized and 90 people fatally injured in the district in 2009.

Traumatic injuries kill young people in the prime of their lives, affecting society as a whole in health costs, lost productivity and emotional distress. There are many Hoosiers who have stories of how traumatic accidents took their loved ones.

This is one of the reasons we at the Indiana State Department of Health will host a Trauma Listening Tour stop in Fort Wayne at the Public Safety Academy, 7602 Patriot Crossing, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Our goal is for attendees to learn more about trauma, learn how state and local agencies currently respond to trauma, learn how a trauma system could help the state and, most importantly, gather personal stories of how trauma has affected those in our state.

Injury-prevention campaigns have gone a long way in decreasing trauma deaths, but there is more that can be done. Indiana is one of only nine states without an integrated statewide trauma system. Indiana has elements of a statewide trauma system, such as emergency medical services providers, trauma centers and a trauma registry. We want to work with the public and our many stakeholders to advance the state to a formal trauma system.

Where trauma systems are in place, they save lives. When trauma patients are transported, by ground or by air, to trauma centers, the preventable death rates drop by 15 percent to 30 percent. Trauma systems correctly identify patients who need trauma care, anticipate needed resources for trauma treatment, route patients to the correct facility and improve care through a quality improvement process.

Please join us, along with our local partners, Wednesday at the Public Safety Academy from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Working together, we can reduce the number of deaths that affect Hoosier families each year.

Dr. Gregory N. Larkin is Indiana health commissioner and chair of the Indiana State Trauma Care Committee. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.