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Examining the term ‘surveillance’ as a potential barrier between public health and community partners
  1. Leah A Roman1,
  2. Anara S Guard2,
  3. Jennifer A Taylor1
  1. 1Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2Education Development Center, Inc, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jennifer A Taylor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, 1505 Race Street, MS 1034, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA; Jat65{at}

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There has long been interest within the injury prevention community regarding perceptions and framing of our work.1–3 Studies have examined how health professionals1 and the public2 interpret the meaning and preventability of an accident. A recent study by Smith and colleagues was the first to examine US news media inclusion of a modifier to the term accident.3 Their exploratory study reviewed the use of freak accident in coverage of injury events. This ongoing professional dialogue regarding the term accident and its implications for injury prevention has led to broad exclusion of the term from communication within our field (despite the lack of conclusive evidence to support such removal). For example, BMJ banned the term in 2001.4 We suggest that there is an additional term that requires similar dialogue.

In June 2010, the Drexel University School of Public Health was awarded a 3-year Assistance to Firefighters Grant from Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The goal of the project is to develop and test the architecture for a non-fatal injury surveillance system for the US fire service. The original name of the project reflected that goal: ‘Firefighter Non-fatal Injury Surveillance System’ or F-NISS for short. Since the project is strongly influenced by the needs and guidance of the fire service and the safety research community, an expert advisory board representing both groups was appointed at the project's inception. The board's prominent role ensured the incorporation of key principles that we know guide successful partnerships between community members and research …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to this manuscript in the following ways: Conception and design, drafting the article and revising it critically for important intellectual content, final approval of the version published.

  • Funding Research for this article was supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) FY 2009 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, Fire Prevention and Safety Grants (Research & Development). Grant No. EMW-2009-FP-00427.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.