New Report Looks At Causes Of Injury Death In San Francisco; Compares Data With Other Major California Cities

December 02, 1998

Injury claims the lives of ten San Franciscans every week, with drug overdoses and other poisonings causing one-third of these deaths, according to a new report.

Released today, the "Profile of Injury" is an overview of injury deaths and hospitalization as major health problems in the City and County of San Francisco. The newest edition presents 1996 data and is a joint project of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), the UCSF Injury Center, and the Trauma Foundation.

The report is compiled every two years, and this is the first time that San Francisco data is compared with three other California cities: Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles. San Francisco injury deaths and hospitalization rates were lower than Oakland but higher than those of Los Angeles and San Jose. The report looks at death and hospitalization in eight major areas. After drug overdose/poisonings, the leading causes of injury death in San Francisco are firearms, falls, and motor vehicle accidents. The other categories in the survey are suffocation, drowning, cut/piercing, and fire/burns.

"The good news is that San Francisco rates in 1996 are lower than in our previous survey, but the bad news is that too many residents continue to die and to be hospitalized as a result of injury or violence," said Elizabeth McLoughlin, ScD, a lead author of the report and associate director of both the UCSF Injury Center and the Trauma Foundation.

The report also maps injury according to where people live and shows that injury rates are highest in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods where residents have the lowest income levels. "Injury does not represent equal opportunity across all zip codes," McLoughlin noted. According to report data, the 94102, 94103, and 94124 zip codes --representing the Tenderloin, North of Market, South of Market, and Bayview/Hunter's Point districts-- had the most residents die and require hospitalization because of injury.

Margaret Knudson, MD, director of the UCSF Injury Center, treats many injury victims first-hand as chief of pediatric trauma at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center (SFGHMC). "Children and adolescents are at particular risk of injury from motor vehicles, firearms, and falls in these disadvantaged neighborhoods. Closing the gap on this urban problem is a priority for all of us interested in the public's health," she said.

Report findings include:

Mitch Katz, MD, director of San Francisco DPH, said the report is a source of important information on what and where specific problems exist. "Defining the problem is the first step in finding a solution, so from here we can put the right groups together to change current practice. This might include better drug treatment programs, community programs during after- school hours with activities for youth and others, and tighter controls on handguns and the availability of alcohol to young people."

One group that DPH works with in community outreach is the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Richard Tessmann, San Francisco community coordinator of AARP, said report findings, such as the high incidence of falls among the elderly, help in planning prevention efforts like telephone check-in programs for those who live alone. Report data also is used for program planning by the SFDPH senior injury prevention program known as CHIPPS.

The UCSF Injury Center is one of ten Injury Control Research Centers funded by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its mission is to expand knowledge in the areas of acute care for traumatized individuals and to promote injury prevention strategies.

The Trauma Foundation is a nonprofit organization housed at SFGHMC whose mission is to prevent injury.

The report was funded by the CDC.

Copies of the 1998 "Profile of Injury in San Francisco" are available to all interested persons at no charge from the Trauma Foundation at 415/821-8209. Additional information about injury problems and solutions is available on the Foundation web-site:
Note to the media: For copies of the report, contact Corinna Kaarlela in the UCSF News Office at 415-476-3804 or Eileen Shields in the SFDPH News Office at 415-554-2507.

University of California - San Francisco

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