Objective: To estimate the magnitude and characteristics of the injury burden in South Africa within a global context.
Methods: The Actuarial Society of South Africa demographic and AIDS model (ASSA 2002) – calibrated to survey, census and adjusted vital registration data – was used to calculate the total number of deaths in 2000. Causes of death were determined from the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System profile. Injury death rates and years of life lost (YLL) were estimated using the Global Burden of Disease methodology. National years lived with disability (YLDs) were calculated by applying a ratio between YLLs and YLDs found in a local injury data source, the Cape Metropole Study. Mortality and disability-adjusted life years’ (DALYs) rates were compared with African and global estimates.
Findings: Interpersonal violence dominated the South African injury profile with age-standardized mortality rates at seven times the global rate. Injuries were the second-leading cause of loss of healthy life, accounting for 14.3% of all DALYs in South Africa in Road traffic injuries (RTIs) are the leading cause of injury in most regions of the world but South Africa has exceedingly high numbers – double the global rate.
Conclusion: Injuries are an important public health issue in South Africa. Social and economic determinants of violence, many a legacy of apartheid policies, must be addressed to reduce inequalities in society and build community cohesion. Multisectoral interventions to reduce traffic injuries are also needed. We highlight this heavy burden to stress the need for effective prevention programmes.