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By Anne Tursz and Pascale Gerbouin-Rérolle. (Pp 204; price not listed.) INSERM, Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, 2001. ISBN 2-85598-791-1.
This book deals with a standard public health topic. For the last 20 years or so, numerous countries have pondered over what strategies they should adopt to reduce childhood injuries. This recent French publication offers a distinctive viewpoint. One question some readers, especially those who may have to struggle with their high school French, may ask is: How useful is this book outside its country of origin? The answer is given in what follows, but in two words, it is potentially “very useful”.
The authors' stated aims are to identify possible gaps in childhood injury prevention in France, to investigate their causes, and to make recommendations to improve prevention. The book is essentially concerned with children younger than 10 years of age. It emphasises primary prevention of non-intentional injuries and excludes intentional abuse.
This work is intended mainly for professionals already familiar with the topic: public health professionals, education professionals, researchers, and health authorities. Hence, the brief opening chapter focuses immediately on the progress that could be made to bring France's rates of mortality and morbidity in line with those of other countries of northern Europe.
The book outlines tools for professionals working in injury prevention. Following a few short chapters examining the main principles of injury prevention (chapter 2), sources of data (chapter 3), and the extent of mortality and morbidity due to childhood injuries in France (chapter 4), two main chapters explore the organisation of prevention in France (structures) (chapter 5), and prevention methods (activities) (chapter 6).
The authors use a creative approach to introduce the structures. They describe the many organisations whose duties include childhood injury prevention in a broad sense, at the national, regional, subregional, or local level: their nature, goals, and types of action. The chapter ends with three highly original flowcharts that establish both the official and collaborative relationships among these organisations:
Organisation of childhood injury prevention on the national level.
Organisation of childhood injury prevention in France: road accidents.
Organisation of childhood injury prevention in France: everyday accidents.
Another section intended to assist public health professionals in their work is a list of the names and titles of people with whom the authors met to collect the material required to write this chapter. Newcomers to the field in France can use this information as a reference tool.
The second main chapter (chapter 6), which deals with methods of prevention, is divided into two sections: the first on the laws, regulations, and standards, and the second on education and information. The text of the principal laws and regulations cited in the chapter are included in an Appendix, adding to the practical appeal of this book for French professionals.
The last chapter presents a critical analysis of the situation in France; it resolutely lists the gaps, and highlights the real possibilities for action. The book is clearly written, and reveals the authors' acute understanding of current scientific knowledge.
Although the book is essentially designed for readers interested in the situation in France, several sections can be useful to any professional working in the field of injury prevention. For example, chapter 2 presents a summary of the main principles of injury prevention, and the section entitled Problémes méthodologiques: fiabilité et limites des statistiques de mortalité exposes the limits of data on mortality, no matter which population is under study.
Finally, this book can serve as an example for other countries that have set childhood injury reduction targets.
Note. The word “accident” in the book's title and as it used in the book itself does not translate the idea of “unforeseeable event” that had led to the word being proscribed in English.