On average, almost 10,000 children visit the emergency department at BC Children’s Hospital for injuries each year. For the last 20 years, a research program at BC Children’s Hospital has made considerable contributions to try to stop kids from getting hurt.

The BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit (BCIRPU), located within BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, has led research projects, provided insight and evidence, and conducted public awareness campaigns to reduce injuries among children and adults. 

“Nobody wants to see a child injured at home, play, on the road or at school,” said Dr. Ian Pike, Director of the BCIRPU and Professor in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. “Over the past 20 years the BCIRPU has worked to tell the public that most injuries are preventable and how they can avoid them.”

The BCIRPU opened its doors in 1998 and is supported by a province-wide partnership between  BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, BC Ministry of Health, Provincial Health Services Authority and University of British Columbia. BCIRPU was created to address gaps in injury prevention in British Columbia and provides leadership and coordination to health authorities and other provincial stakeholders.

Various events in the history of injury prevention in British Columbia can be linked to the work of the BCIRPU. These include:

  • Leading concussion education and awareness with the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT), in partnership with Child Health BC, BC Children's Hospital, Parachute and the BC Ministry of Health.
  • Delivering a program associated with a 35 per cent reduction in the number of children under two admitted to BC hospitals with abusive head trauma; 
  • Contributing evidence reviews leading to regulatory changes in the province, such as BC’s booster seat legislation in 2008; 
  • Making injury and mortality data easily accessible to health care leads and the public through the Injury Data Online Tool (iDOT);
  • Promoting risky and outdoor play among children, which has numerous societal, cognitive, and physical benefits;
  • Forging partnerships and collaborations with injury prevention leads in all of the health authorities across British Columbia;
  • Engaging in a long-term strategic partnership with The Community Against Preventable Injuries that aims to shift attitudes and transform behaviours related to preventable injuries through a social marketing campaign. Exposure to the campaign was associated with significantly higher scores on measures of injury-related attitudes and self-reflective behaviours amongst British Columbians aged 25-54.

Recent research that ranked nine Canadian provinces on their child injury rates and prevention policies found that British Columbia ranked number one out of the provinces evaluated. BC had the largest proportionate decrease in hospitalization rate for unintentional injuries at 22 per cent and the second lowest rates of both hospitalization and death due to unintentional injury. BC’s top marks show that the efforts of BCIRPU and others are having an impact.
 “The research team at the BCIRPU has made long-lasting contributions to improving the health of multiple generations of British Columbians,” said Dr. Wyeth Wasserman, Executive Director of the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. “This flagship organization has shown their ability to adapt to emerging issues and create collaborations with partners in British Columbia and beyond.”

What’s next for the BCIRPU? In partnership with the health authorities, PHSA, and the BC Injury Prevention Committee, BCIRPU has collaborated to establish provincial priorities for addressing injury prevention in the province. These priorities will address three topical issues faced by British Columbians: preventing seniors’ falls, reducing transport-related injuries, and addressing the factors that lead to youth suicide and self-harm.

“British Columbians are more aware than ever before of their risks for injury,” said Dr. Pike. “However, BCIRPU still has work to do as long as people keep getting hurt. We plan to build on the foundation of the last 20 years and continue with our many partners to make a difference.”

The BCIRPU is hosting a symposium on Wednesday, October 10 at BC Children’s Hospital that will feature TED-style presentations from top researchers and influencers in injury prevention. This event is intended to shine a light on the future of injury prevention in British Columbia, highlighting key provincial activities and emerging research. Details can be found on Eventbrite.