Meet Amy Hunter: Injury Epidemiologist

Connecticut Children’s would like to welcome the newest addition to our Injury Prevention team! Amy Hunter is an injury epidemiologist. It’s a burgeoning field that is critical to finding ways to keep our children safe. We recently caught up with Amy to learn more about her profession and how she plans to contribute to the well-being of all children.

1) What is injury epidemiology?
Injury epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of injuries in a defined population, and the use of that study to reduce the burden of injury and improve health.

2) Why did you want to become an injury epidemiologist?
Injuries, which are often described as accidents, are a leading cause of death in the United States. However, to quote an old CDC campaign, “Injuries are not accidents;” they are preventable. I became an injury epidemiologist because I wanted to contribute to the work of reducing these avoidable causes of morbidity and death.

3) How does your work impact public health?
Epidemiology is the foundation of public health. Epidemiologists use data from sources such as surveillance systems, and observational and experimental studies, to identify important characteristics and trends of disease and injury. The information gleaned from epidemiologic studies is then used by policy makers to develop and improve legislation, by practitioners to better identify and treat patients at high risk for specific injuries, and interventionists to design and implement effective community programs and strategies for prevention at all levels.

4) Are unintentional or preventable injuries on the rise?
Fatal and non-fatal opioid overdose in the United States has become epidemic, with most incident cases attributed to prescription opioids. Reasons for the emergence of this epidemic are multifaceted, however epidemiologic studies have identified a positive association between prescribing practices and opioid misuse and overdose. Further, women are more likely than men to be prescribed and use opioids. It is therefore not surprising that the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), defined as a constellation of withdrawal symptoms in newborns with pre-natal drug exposure, is also on the rise. A 2016 report by the Connecticut Department of Health showed an annual increase in incident NAS-related hospitalizations in Connecticut between 2003-2014, and identified the Northeast region of the United States as having the second highest prevalence of NAS in the country in 2012.

The number of pedestrians who were struck and killed in traffic increased by 11% in the past year. Distracted driving, poor visibility, and built environments unconducive with ambulatory travel have all been implicated as factors to be addressed.

5) What is the most common type of preventable injury in children?
Some of the most common injuries in children are those sustained from motor vehicle crashes, poisonings and falls. The incidence and severity of these injuries can be reduced through minor behavioral modifications. Here are a few tips:

· Children should always wear a seatbelt or be properly secured by a car seat appropriate for their age, height and weight. The Connecticut Injury Prevention Center at Connecticut Children’s, sponsored by Safe Kids Connecticut, hosts a car seat clinic for parents and caregivers who would like to learn proper car sear installation. More information can be found here.

· Parents and caregivers should ensure that all medications and chemicals (e.g. laundry pods, cleansers) are stored in their original containers, and out of reach of children.
· Children should don protective equipment before engaging in play (e.g. helmets, elbow and knee pads), as appropriate.

6) How will your work assist in keeping all children healthy?
My work contributes to keeping children healthy by first identifying modifiable behavioral, environmental, and societal characteristics that contribute to the risk of injury. That information is then shared with stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, practitioners) who use that information to improve health.

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