Experts Translate Research into Effective Prevention

New Tools Offered to Translate Injury Research into Effective Prevention

Charles Branas, PhD, the new chair of the epidemiology department at Columbia University shares his study showing how “a place” can matter when it comes to violence prevention.

Public health professionals from around the region have new tools in their repertoire for translating injury research into effective prevention. Bullying and youth suicide, the contributions stable safe communities can add to violence and suicide prevention, a data driven approach to saving lives when it comes to motor vehicle safety, ways to address the opioid epidemic, and a detailed look at what we might learn from assaults against US law enforcement officers in the line-of duty were topics addressed by experts in each respected field of study during the 5th Annual Translating Injury Research into Effective Prevention Symposium of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University held in New York.

The annual Symposium offers the opportunity for health care and community workers to meet injury prevention colleagues, network and learn the cutting-edge and best practices in injury control and prevention. Close to 75 people attended the meeting this year and no one left without pausing to think including those presenting.

Northshore University hospital Trauma Surgeon Ormar Bholat, said bringing together people with multiple points of view, discussing the issues at hand and having the opportunity to come up with solutions to complex problems is great.

“Every time you get a fresh set of eyes on something there is the potential to come up with a new and innovative way of solving it. I think just about every presenter said I had not considered that I will go back to my data and look at that. Maybe that’s something people just say, but I believe that for these people it is something they are going to do,” Dr. Bholat continued.

He concluded by saying its great to be an epidemiologist but there is a layer of separation there and getting the doctors and health care professionals to come together gives a whole new point of view and I think that’s helpful. It is a sentiment share by many others.

Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, the winner of this year’s Jess Kraus award for best paper in Injury Epidemiology for her research on injuries among law enforcement officers agreed. “I liked t he range of topics. It was a good breadth of Injury topics, but then there was the application how was this research is being translated into something that’s going to make an impact,” she said. “That’s what’s important to us so it was great to have a whole day of that.”

Gail Lynah, RN, a clinical nurse instructor at Bellevue Hospital Center attended for the second year and brought colleagues. “We tend to work in silos sometimes and this touches on so many aspects that I wouldn’t normally think about. We got a wealth of information in a short time period,” she says. She said she learn things that would be helpful professionally but she was most impressed with things she learned that she could use in her personal life as well. She said she travels down Queens Blvd, “the Blvd of death” everyday and that she recognized the changes made that were presented in the NYC’s Data Driven Approach to Saving Lives presentation and that gave her a whole new perspective what took place.

Even the experts learned how they might assist in impacting the work done by each other. Madelyn Gould, PhD who spoke on suicide and bullying said work done on the development of green spaces and safe places by Gelman Professor and Department of Epidemiology Chair Charles Branas could greatly impact her work on suicide prevention.

All of the presentations are available on the Center’s website at:


Guohua Li, MD, DrPH
M. Finster Professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology
Director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University
722 West 168th Street, Rm 524
New York NY USA 10032

Research on Police Assaults Awarded

Jess Kraus Award Winner Acknowledged

Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH receives Kraus Award from Injury Epidemiology Editor Guohua Li, MD, DrPH

Assistant Professor and Researcher Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health accepted this year’s Jess Kraus Award on behalf of her colleagues Keisha Pollack, PhD, MPH and Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH. The award was presented May 25, 2017, at the 5th annual Columbia University Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention Symposium, Translating Injury Research into Effective Prevention. The award is given annually to acknowledge the best paper published in the journal Injury Epidemiology. Their paper, “Assaults against US. law enforcement officers in the line-of duty,” was selected by the journal’s editorial board based on its novelty, simplicity, clarity and potential impact on population health.

“Much of the existing literature on assaults against law enforcement officers (LEOs) has focused on fatal assaults. But we know that for each fatality, there are many more assaults that result in injury but not death,” Dr. Crifasi explained. “The goal of this study was to examine differences in characteristics between fatal and nonfatal assaults to determine which characteristics increased the odds that an assault would be fatal.”

Because evidence in previous literature suggests traffic stops are dangerous for LEOs, Dr. Crifasi and her colleagues expected to see an increased likelihood in assaults resulting in fatalities when LEOs were conducting traffic stops. They also expected to see an increased likelihood for assaults in situations where LEOs were responding to domestic disturbances, because they are regularly cited by law enforcement as dangerous situations. Those calls did not increase the odds of a fatality. They were surprised to find higher odds for LEOs becoming victims of homicide when they were ambushed or experienced an unprovoked attack. Those were times when they were caught off guard or had limited opportunity to defend themselves. She presented her findings upon receiving the award.

Dr. Crifasi says receiving the award means a great deal to her. “It is a really big honor,” she said. “This is work that I have been doing for a few years so just getting the paper published was exciting and then getting the award with my co-authors took it to another level. I feel really proud of the work we’re doing. It is just a really high honor.”

Professor Jess F. Kraus, PhD, MPH, is a pioneer in injury research. He has been appointed and elected to many professional societies, organizations and groups. Has served as a member of the Motor Vehicle Safety Research Advisory Committee of the US Department of Transportation and the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on Accident Prevention. In addition he has conducted studies on motorcycle crashes, pedestrian injuries, work-related trauma and brain and spinal cord injuries. He nearly 200 publications. He also teaches three graduate courses on injury epidemiology and supervises both PhD and Masters students at UCLA.

Her presentation and others from the symposium can be reviewed by going to:


Guohua Li, MD, DrPH
M. Finster Professor of Epidemiology and Anesthesiology
Director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University
722 West 168th Street, Rm 524
New York NY USA 10032

The Injury Times – Prescription Drug and Substance Use Safety

The latest issue of The Injury Times has been published, focusing on the topic of Prescription Drug and Substance Use Safety.

Articles include:


Download the Prescription Drug and Substance Use Safety issue of The Injury Times




Injury Prevention Center Seminar Provides Much Needed Help

by E. Lenita Johnson (

Phenomenal and empowering are just two of the words attendees used to describe the 3rd Annual Innovations in Translating Injury Research into Effective Prevention Seminar sponsored by the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Research at Columbia University. The daylong event offered injury prevention colleagues the opportunity to network and learn about cutting edge research and best practices in injury prevention.

Kim Wiley-Schwartz, the Assistant Commissioner for Education and Outreach of the New York City Department of Transportation speaks on Vision Zero.

Kim Wiley-Schwartz, the Assistant Commissioner for Education and Outreach of the New York City Department of Transportation speaks on Vision Zero.

American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma representative Glen Tinkoff, MD, FACS, FCCM says this seminar was paramount. “This is a major university and a major city with presentations made by professionals who understand the language, the need and the operations of injury prevention,” Tinkoff said during an interview prior to the seminar.

“It is paramount because we have not been in the public eye and that has been a problem with injury prevention with our outreach to our communities, our politicians, our legislators and our patients. We are not informing them well and so these venues are exceptionally important.”

Dr. Guohua Li, the Director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University and the editor of The Springer Open-Access Journal, Injury Epidemiology understands the value of communication, partnerships, the Center and its work; and, he says the Center is doing what it can to contribute to change. “The significance of Columbia’s CDC funded Injury Control Research Center has been immeasurable. The Center has helped us to put injury prevention on the academic map of the University and the Mailman School of Public Health, develop well-structured coursework for Doctoral and Masters Students, add injury prevention to the mission statement of Columbia; and, most importantly when it comes to outreach, the Center helped expand and address priority areas of injury facing the nation and its most vulnerable population groups while strengthening collaborative efforts with colleagues at the University, in the region, in health departments, and in communities not only in this area but across the country.”

Barbara Barlow, MD, Columbia’s Injury Control Research Center Associate Director and Co-Director of Outreach says this is what the CDC wants. “The CDC wants you to have more than research and data. They want you to use the data to translate into action to improve community health and safety for children and their families,” Barlow says, “Most of the people attending the Columbia seminar like many health care professionals have never walked outside of their hospital walls, and that is what outreach is all about.” She went on to say the doctors, nurses and the community outreach workers need to walk outside the hospital walls and help the communities they serve in and help solve their health problems. “To just treat trauma and not try to prevent it is just absolutely immoral. As a physician you have an obligation not only to treat disease, sickness and injury but also to contribute to the community’s health and wellbeing.”

The Center, seminar and Injury Free outreach efforts are resources that could probably be of use to every injury prevention group in the Northeastern part of the country according to New York State Department of Health Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Director Kitty Gelberg, PhD, MPH. “People need to recognize your existence, reach out to you and work with you. This wealth of experience and knowledge is not just State based,” she said. “If you go into injury prevention and you feel like you are alone doing this, it gets very overwhelming very quickly because of all of the different types of injuries. It helps to realize there are already people out there doing this, you are not alone, you don’t have to recreate the wheel, the template is there and you can follow it.” She says she believes that was the message for attendees and it came across very well.

Just over 60 people attended the event, and they heard from a variety of industry experts. In addition to having Kim Wiley-Schwartz, the Assistant Commissioner for Education and Outreach of the New York City Department of Transportation who spoke on The Vision Zero initiative: An update on New York City‘s approach to reducing traffic fatalities and injuries, and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Assistant Commissioner Hillary Kunins, MD, MPH, MS who spoke on Prescription drug initiatives in New York City, those in attendance heard from six physicians and injury prevention outreach professionals from the Injury Free Coalition for Kids®, a national injury prevention outreach program that is among the country’s premier injury prevention programs and the outreach arm of the Injury Center.

In addition to presentations, attendees had the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions on a variety of injury topics including trauma center verifications, Department of Transportation and Department of Health injury prevention initiatives including violence and road safety. They also had the opportunity to talk about: child injury prevention, elderly falls, violence prevention initiatives, ACS Trauma Center certification and publishing and disseminating injury and injury prevention science.

Roundtable discussions during lunch offered the opportunity for extended conversations, teachable moments and questions.

Roundtable discussions during lunch offered the opportunity for extended conversations, teachable moments and questions.

“This seminar was great. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot. The speakers are informative, enthusiastic and very knowledgeable,” Deborah Travis, Trauma Program Manager of St. Lukes Hospital said. “I am new to injury prevention and it has helped me to verify that I am on the right track and given me some new ideas.” Her sentiments were echoed by Dekeya Slaughter of Bellevue. “I have attended previous seminars, but in my new role as Injury Prevention Coordinator this one provided me contacts I can call. It has been great.”

Few would question the need for more seminars like this one. Tinkoff says most recent research shows there are only so many lives we can save in acute care and injury prevention is the new frontier in reducing the burden of injury in the US and worldwide. He concluded the interview by saying until it is better addressed injury will remain the biggest killer of our population between the ages of 1 and 44 and it will continue to rob the population with more years of life lost than any other entity that we have.

The course Director was Joyce Pressley, PhD, MPH Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Health Policy and Management at CUMC, and Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University, Outreach Co-Director.

The Injury Times – Occupational Safety

Injury Times Occupational_Finald_Page_1The latest issue of The Injury Times has been published, focusing on the topic of Occupational Safety.

Articles include:


Download the Occupational Safety issue of The Injury Times




Children Affected by Super Storm Sandy Get a Little Hands Playground

The Injury Free Coalition for Kids joined forces with the Allstate Foundation to build a safe place for the children in the Village of Freeport, New York, to play. More than 150 volunteers came together to build a Little Hands playground that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy just over a year ago.

“It is really important for children to have safe places to play,” explained Dr. Barbara Barlow, Associate Director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University, and Founder and Director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids. She went on to say playgrounds provide outlets for children to exercise, express themselves, and to be healthy both physically and emotionally.

freeportplayground1  freeportplayground2

Young people played a role throughout this process. Winners of an art contest from the Freeport Recreation Center’s Summer Camp provided the inspiration for four panels of artwork on the playground.

Although young people were not allowed in the build area, Girl Scouts from Brownie Troop 2328 kept workers hydrated by handing out bottles of water. It was Troop Leader Carole James, an Allstate Insurance employee, who prepared the proposal for the Foundation to install the playground.

freeportplayground3  freeportplayground4

Among other joining Injury Free to build the playground were close to 80 Allstate agents, claims representatives, accountants, owner Agents, and other employees of the Corporation. The Friends of Freeport, an organization made up of neighbors helping neighbors after the storm, also worked throughout the day. Everything was done under the direction of Vanessa Martelli of Universal Play Systems.

This playground is one of more than 50 the Allstate Foundation and Injury Free have built across the country. At least 10 of them were constructed to give children safe places to play after natural disasters. The playground was dedicated October 31, 2013.

Increased Crash Risk for Drugged Drivers

A new study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention (November 2013) shows that drug use is associated with a significantly increased risk of fatal crash involvement, particularly when used in combination with alcohol.

The case-control study was led by Dr. Guohua Li, professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Read more about the study’s results in recent media coverage.

You may also download the full text of the article.

Biggest Threat to Schoolchildren? Cars

A WNYC radio interview of Center faculty focused on the threat motor vehicles pose to New York City’s 1.1 million children as they travel to and from school.  According to state DMV data, about 1,800 kids are hit by cars and trucks in New York City each year.

“In large cities like New York City, clearly the most important danger to children walking to school are motor vehicles, cars,” said Charles DiMaggio an Associate Professor at Columbia University who studies public health. “Kids really are the most unpredictable pedestrians,” he said, “which puts the responsibility for their safety much more squarely on the shoulders of adults and drivers.”

>> Read the full story at WYNC

Bumps in the Road for Popular Child Pedestrian Program

Funding cuts may halt safety improvements around schools

This article by Elaine Meyer was originally published by The2x2Project.  You can see other articles like this by visiting The2x2Project

A child walking or biking to school has a lot to contend with: busy commercial streets, no sidewalks, speeding cars, and other hazards. Today traffic injuries are the leading cause of injury-related death among children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2011, only 13 percent of children risked the trip to school by foot or bike, according to a study of children ages 5 to 14—a dramatic drop from 1969 when that number was 48 percent. Parents cite fear of safety as their No. 1 reason for not allowing their children to walk to school, according to the CDC—particularly their safety as pedestrians.

“Some of the barriers include stray dogs—especially in the low-income communities, lack of sidewalks—children walking at a very early age by themselves,” says Jason Jackman, a program planner analyst at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research in Tampa, Fla.

Making the walk to school safer has been for the last seven years a goal of a popular federal program administered by the Department of Transportation called Safe Routes to School, a program that now faces an uncertain fate. While the federal government has long played a major role in funding for state and local highways, it had before Safe Routes largely left school pedestrian safety measures up to states–such as creating slow zones, new sidewalks and bus traffic stop laws.

That may become the norm again. This year, the U.S. House of Representatives’ passed a 2012 transportation bill that ended dedicated funding for Safe Routes, a move that will put school safety improvements at much greater discretion of the states.

Between 2005 and 2012, Safe Routes dedicated $1.1 billion in federal money to “traffic-calming measures” around schools, such as narrowing streets, building speed bumps, converting two-way streets to one-way streets, and creating sidewalks.  With the new transportation bill, Safe Routes now falls under a larger umbrella of “Transportation Alternatives” programs that will have to compete for funding against the likes of bike lanes and environmental mitigation projects—the kinds of projects Safe Routes boosters would tend to support.

In New York City, child pedestrian injury during school hours dropped 44 percent in areas where there were Safe Routes changes, according to the most comprehensive study of the program, published earlier this year by Drs. Charles DiMaggio and Guohua Li, who are epidemiologists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

In Marin County, Calif., schools participating in Safe Routes reported a 64 percent increase in walking to school and a 114 percent increase in biking. At one school in automobile-heavy Atlanta, walking to school in the morning increased from 18 percent before a Safe Routes program was implemented in 2008 to 42 percent after, in 2010.

A “before” photo of a section of the walk to Kimbell Elementary School in Tampa
(credit: Jason Jackman)

An “after” photo of the same spot, with a new sidewalk funded by Safe Routes
(credit: Jason Jackman)

In the Tampa Bay area, where Jackman is the Safe Routes to School coordinator, program money has been used to install sidewalks in places where there used to be only grass and street, to fund local coordinator positions to encourage safe walking to school, and  for a parent-led walk to school group, among other things.

While Safe Routes has evidently begun to improve safety in areas where injury numbers have been analyzed, there is still much more to be done.

As of March 2011, just 10 percent of schools in the United States have received Safe Routes money, according to a report by Safe Routes to School National Partnership, an advocacy network of organizations, government agencies and professional groups that support the program. Even during the program’s flushest period, states had to turn schools away because of funding limitations.

With the new funding arrangement, Safe Routes improvements will not necessarily end, but it is now up to states to decide how much—if anything—they want to put toward the program.

While some states such as Colorado and Ohio have said they will maintain Safe Routes as a program with dedicated funding, others like Utah and Missouri plan to transfer their Safe Routes funding to other projects, according to Margo Pedroso, the deputy director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Another hurdle is that localities must now put up around 20 percent of projects costs, like the majority of other federal transportation projects. Before, all of a project’s costs were eligible for federal money.

In Missouri, this will especially take a toll on small towns already strapped for cash, says Dr. Brent Hugh, the executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.

“The loss of 100 percent match is really going to hurt. In Missouri a huge majority of our Safe Routes money went to rural towns,” he says. “Those communities are not going to be able to come up with the match. It’s a very significant amount of money for a school district or a small rural town.”

In Florida, where more pedestrians are killed than in any other state, Transportation Secretary Ananth Presad has nonetheless indicated the state will not prioritize funding for non-highway projects like Safe Routes.

“We must give serious consideration to whether—when resources and dollars are at a premium—spending money on sidewalks, bike trails, beautification and other projects like this is the most prudent use of taxpayer money,” Presad said at a congressional hearing last year.

But critics say that Florida and so many other parts of the country already devote a significant amount to highway and road spending at the expense of pedestrian and bike travel.

“Florida wasn’t built for pedestrian travel. It was built for motor vehicles. Safe Routes to School was a great opportunity to teach the younger generation how to walk and bike safely,” says Jackman.

Children from Tampa’s Shaw Elementary walk to school as part of the “Walking School Bus” program
credit: Jason Jackman

There are already signs that the 2012 transportation bill has affected Safe Routes funding.

State spending on Safe Routes programs in the first quarter of the 2013 fiscal year slowed from previous quarters, according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. About one-third of states did not set aside any funds to Safe Routes programs, according to the partnership.

State departments of transportation do not often realize how greatly these programs are valued at a local level, Pedroso says.

At Kimbell Elementary School in Tampa Florida, Safe Routes has brought more signage, patrol cars, and new sidewalks where they didn’t use to exist, and it has led to a transportation education program run by Jackman, who is the Safe Routes coordinator in that region. It has also led to a cultural change at the school, says Nikki Counce, the social worker at Kimbell.

“More parents let kids ride their bike, let kids walk,” she says “It creates a community. It helps other parents get to know each other as well. So that they’re looking out for other kids who live next to them. Parents have befriended each other.”

It also gives the kids opportunities to exercise, a benefit that supporters of the program frequently cite when they talk about its child obesity-fighting potential.

The likelihood that communities with Safe Routes projects have fixed all of their problems is “pretty slim,” says Pedroso.

“Local communities are clamoring for this money,” she says. “If all of the decisions were left to locals, we think these programs would be much more prioritized.”

Edited by Jordan Lite and Dana March. Additional research by Lauren Weisenfluh.

Top photo: A bike and walk to school program at Hunter’s Green Elementary in Tampa (credit: Jason Jackman)