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The Scientific Basis of Injury Prevention and Control
  1. B Pless
  1. Editor;

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    Edited by R McClure, M Stevenson, S McEvoy. AUS$75: IP Communications, 2004, pp 398. ISBN 0-9578617-9-6. Available from IP Communications, Level 1, 123 Camberwell Road, East Hawthorn, Victoria 3123, Australia; website:

    I now have about 20 books related to injury prevention on my shelves. When this one arrived, I asked myself: “Do we really need another? Does this one fill an important gap? Does it have other qualities that make it worth the cost and effort?”

    The answer is an emphatic “yes”. Above all its other virtues, it offers a fresh perspective. The Scientific Basis is novel not just because it is antipodean (meaning from the other pole as opposed to American or European), but also, and much more importantly, because it focuses entirely on fundamental issues—the principles of prevention. Consequently, the emphasis is not on topics like falls or burns, but on cross-cutting elements applicable to all injuries. This is refreshing and useful because it helps the reader view injury prevention generically.

    Moreover, it is exceptionally well written (or well edited). The style is informative and scholarly but not stiff. The tables are well presented and the examples, albeit local, are well chosen and easily understood. The references are for the most part up to date and complete (although a few important ones were missed). The index works well.

    Thirty eight experts contributed to this book. All but three are from Australia or New Zealand and seven are, or have been, members of the editorial board of Injury Prevention. The book is divided into four sections: The public health problem of injury; Measurement and classification; Risk factor identification; Intervention development; and Program development, implementation and evaluation. If I had to single out two chapters of greatest value for overworked readers they would include chapter 9: Risk factor identification and chapter 12: Developing injury interventions. Both capture the epidemiological heart of the matter and do so with exceptional lucidity.

    The reason the book succeeds so well is that it is pitched just right: it is neither a primer nor an advanced academic text, yet in many respects it is both. Whenever a new idea or term is introduced, it is clearly defined and more advanced work is alluded to, citing the most useful authority. This strategy of touching on high powered matters and then referencing them avoids intimidating or overburdening readers. Only a few chapters could be skipped by the general reader, not because they are in any way inferior but because they are relevant only to some readers. I have in mind chapters 10 and 11 on biomechanics and ergonomics. However both are unusual and valuable additions, rarely found in other such texts.

    For a multi-authored book the style and structure are remarkably coherent. This delicate balance succeeds admirably. I found some surprising omissions and some inconsistency, even within a chapter, in how journals are cited—for example, in full or by standard abbreviations. Nevertheless, most references are remarkably current and well chosen.

    What other book in this field devotes a complete chapter to “Making policy”, “Laws and rule-making”, “Social marketing”, or “Advocacy”? I confess this is the first time I think I have understood economic evaluation reasonably well, thanks to the chapter by Hendrie and Miller. In many chapters, a case study is used to illustrate the points being made—for example, pool fencing in Advocacy and fall prevention in Social marketing. Although these and other case studies are usually drawn from Australian and New Zealand experience, they are nonetheless generally applicable.

    Newcomers to the field who read this book from cover to cover would be off to a flying start. In fact, if all the material was well digested, the reader would be well ahead of many other researchers or research consumers. The key benefit of this book is its added value—even if you have digested all the other big guns, you will certainly profit further from adding this one to your library. I urge all readers of this journal—indeed everyone working to prevent injuries—to get a copy and read it with care. You will be rewarded by many fresh and valuable insights into whatever aspect of the problem interests you most.