Background Despite widespread application of the public health approach to injury prevention there is an acknowledged limitation in the extent to which it facilitates translation of research evidence to injury prevention practice.
Aims This paper critically examines the contemporary public health approach using the academic framework of public policy with view to amending the approach to improve the translation of research to practice.
Methods A fatal injury case study drawn the Australian experience is used to illustrate the limitations of public policy model underlying the contemporary public health approach to injury prevention and the better performance of a preferred public policy model in terms of the extent to which each facilitates translation of research to practice.
Results In this case study, careful accumulation of evidence relating to policy definition, causation and intervention efficacy within the research domain did not lead to policy action once this evidence was placed on the public agenda. Policy action was only achieved as a result of a window of opportunity that arose when the spate of drowning in 2004, generated public recognition of the problem and generated political will to recognise and hence implement existing policy solutions.
Discussion and Conclusions The rational model that underlies the contemporary approach to injury prevention is consistent with the stages of empirical scientific method but not consistent with the mechanisms that drive policy implementation. The implications for these findings for the public health approach to injury prevention are that it needs to be adapted so that its foundation model from the rational to the incremental approach.
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