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Burn injury and the impact on global health
  1. B E Ebel*,
  2. T Nelp,
  3. M B Klein,
  4. N Gibran,
  5. F P Rivara
  1. Correspondence Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, 325 Ninth Ave, Box 359960 Seattle, WA 98104, USA


Background Burn injury is a serious and under-recognized global public health problem. Citizens of low and middle income countries (LMIC) bear the largest burden, accounting for 95% of fatal fire-related burns. Measuring the impact of burn injury may facilitate a rational approach to prevention and treatment.

Objective Review and summarise global literature on fatal and disabling burn injury in LMIC.

Methods We conducted a literature review of Medline and EMBASE libraries for articles on burn or fire injury, published between 1980 and 2009. We limited reviewed articles to those with a defined study population. Using these criteria, 111 articles were identified and abstracted.

Results Countries reporting burn data included representation from all WHO global regions. Twenty-three countries reported on burn incidence from regional or national population-based surveys. Burn injury rates ranged from 26 to 411 per 100 000 people. Among younger children, males had a higher burn incidence than females. However the burn prevalence among females rises with exposure to meal preparation, and in most countries females are more likely than males to sustain burn injuries into early/middle adulthood. Ninety countries reported data on burn fatalities or hospitalisation. Median TBSA for hospitalised patients was 20.1% (7% to 54%). Frequent causes were scald >flame >(electricity, chemical). Flame burns are the leading cause of death.

Conclusions Burn injury is an important cause of injury in LMIC. Women face particular risks, likely related to exposure while cooking.

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