Funding helps U-M probe solutions to opioid epidemic, injuries

August 4, 2017  //  FOUND IN: News

An opioid overdose. A concussion on the football field. A fall by an aging parent. A motor vehicle crash by a distracted driver texting.

These events have one thing in common: They result in injury.

“Injury is the leading cause of death for people from 1 year old to 44 years old, with opioid overdose surpassing motor vehicle deaths in our state and across the nation,” said Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., director of the U-M Injury Center and professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.

Despite this stark statistic, the U-M Injury Center is one of only 10 nationwide funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focuses on creating cutting-edge injury science and initiatives to prevent injuries. In addition, the centers translate proven programs to local and national communities while training the next generation of injury-prevention scientists and practitioners.

“Due to advances in the field of injury prevention, motor vehicle crash rates have fallen substantially since the 1970s,” Cunningham said. “The application of these same public health principles to other areas of injury, by multidisciplinary teams, can have a similar impact on other injuries that affect our communities daily.”

At U-M, the center focuses on prevention of prescription drug overdoses, concussion, youth violence, motor vehicle crashes, sexual violence, falls and other injuries. It just received $2.5 million from the CDC to continue its research over the next two years.

“Like other states in the Midwest, Michigan has been significantly impacted by the opioid epidemic,” Cunningham said. “In fact, Michigan has experienced a 13 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in the past year. It has the 15th-highest rate of death due to drug overdose when compared to other U.S. states and the District of Columbia.”

Cunningham noted the U-M Injury Center is well positioned to work with state and local partners to decrease the burden of these injuries and others in the state, and this new funding will bolster the partnership.

In addition, injuries can be costly, with a price tag of more than $671 billion annually in costs for medical care and lost work, according to the CDC.

“And the tragic aspect of all of this is that most injuries are predictable and preventable,” Cunningham said. “Further, other injuries, such as those related to intimate partner and peer violence, are common across the state and nation.”

The U-M Injury Center not only is a partnership with the CDC, but also brings together schools and colleges within U-M, including the Medical School, School of Public Health, College of Engineering, School of Kinesiology, School of Social Work, School of Nursing and units across campus, such as the U-M Transportation Research Institute. In addition, the center partners with local and state health departments and law enforcement to move best practices in injury science into the field.

The center has more than 350 members from more than 20 institutions and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. If you are interested in joining, click here.