Uncovering a Neglected Epidemic

A study by AKU faculty members was selected as one of the most important published in the field of global emergency medicine research in 2013.

Though injuries kill as many people as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, in most developing countries they constitute a neglected epidemic. Pakistan is no exception, with traffic crashes, violence, drowning, fire and poisoning among the top causes of death and disability.​

Now entering its second decade, AKU’s trauma and injury research programme is playing a leading role in the effort to accord injury prevention and treatment their proper place on the public health agenda, both in Pakistan and globally. With sustained support from the US National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, AKU has developed a critical mass of researchers who are producing essential data, raising awareness and testing injury-prevention strategies.

Experts named an AKU study one of the two dozen most important pieces of global emergency medicine research published in 2013. The study, “A Child an Hour,” by Drs Junaid Razzak, Uzma Rahim Khan, Nukhba Zia and Iqbal Azam, found that injury was the third-leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 5 in Pakistan.

“There is so much focus on disease, but this shows we can’t neglect injury,” Dr Khan said.

AKU researchers have also created one of the few systems for tracking traffic injuries in a low-income country. Working with four other hospitals in Karachi, they established round-the-clock data collection starting in 2006. As a result, several hospitals took steps to improve care and invest in new equipment; the city government installed pedestrian bridges, streetlights and traffic-calming devices at crash-prone sites; and campaigns were launched to increase helmet use and reduce speeding.

Today, faculty members are beginning to test injury-reduction interventions. For example, researchers from AKU and Johns Hopkins are exploring ways to deliver information in low-income neighbourhoods to reduce the presence of household injury hazards.

“We’re looking for simple, cost-effective ways of making a difference,”Dr Khan said.