Samarakkody, D., Elizabeth Davis, and Rod McClure. Grass Roots Injury Prevention: A Guide for Field Workers. Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing, 2013. Print.
This book resonated with me immediately. I wish I had read it about 5 years ago. That is when I took my children, in their early teens at the time, to volunteer at a site where a home was being restored for a family in need.
Home Building: Site Dangers
We joined the team when siding was being hung. My kids and I cut pieces of vinyl siding to specs so that the pieces would fit neatly around the windows. Then we handed these cut pieces of siding out the nonexistent windows to men perched high on ladders.
So far so good.
There was a designated footpath from the parking lot across the “lawn” and a long plank which crossed the nonexistent front porch and up to front door. All nails and shrapnel were to be kept off this designated route. All workers were to be kept on this designated route….. Sure.
Someone started to sweep up 80 year old house dust. And as the sun set it got colder. Of course it did: no furnace yet and no actual windows.
Soon a nice young man offered to teach my daughter how to use a hand held power saw to cut wood and she was ready to learn.
Afterwards, we thanked them for including us and made our way down the special path to our car, proudly clutching our official worksite t-shirts.
It doesn’t surprise me that, years later, my daughter would become an engineering student at MIT. (They have a whole shop filled with power saws there.) What does surprise me was that no one went to the emergency room that night with a nail in their foot, wheezing, hypothermia, or a laceration.
When I was asked to review this book, I recalled the day we spent at the homesite and completely understood its relevance, both in the developing world, and maybe even in Western Pennsylvania.
This book is just what is needed.
The Science of Injury Prevention
Diana Samarakkody has expertise in public health and epidemiology, devoting herself to injury prevention and management. She is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia where she teaches undergraduate and postgraduate medical students. She serves as the National Program Manager for Injury Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka.
This book is a collaboration. Dr. Samarakkody, the coauthors, and contributors are all equally worthy of credit for their life’s work and writing in the causes of health, safety, and promotion of peace.
A Practical Guide for Field Workers
Take one look at the cover and you already understand what this book is about. And you think, “At last!” Susil Jayashantha Perera’s spot-on art depicts a woman in a medical uniform, quite literally “in the field,” sharing printed information with lay people, engaging a local woman in discussion as others gather.
Hint: I don’t see a hospital in the background. This book is a manual for this health worker and all who follow in her footsteps. Its illustrations complement and enhance the text nicely.
Academic works on the science and principles of injury prevention abound …thankfully! This book, also known as the “GRIP Guide”, will serve as the critical, final link in the chain between all that scientific knowledge and “field workers who want to make their communities safer.”
It starts with a brief, motivating discussion: “Everyone in a community is affected when someone dies or is disabled by an injury.” Lower- and middle-income countries account for 90 percent of global deaths due to injury.
Yes, a family can lose its breadwinner, but this book also reveals a sensitive awareness of the nonmonetary impacts of injury. It spans the concrete, such as pain and bleeding, and the profound: “Loss of dreams and expectations of marriage and children,” and loss to the “social and cultural life of the community.”
It empowers the field worker, including those with no formal training in medicine, public health, epidemiology, or public speaking, to tackle this challenge onsite. There are no big lectures to give or manuals to hand out. Instead, the reader learns step by step how to empower communities to face their own challenges and to sustain their own work.
How to Begin an Injury Prevention Program
It begins with the basics of forming a group, brainstorming, using case studies as teaching tools, mapping the community with respect to potential risk, and moves on to creating calendars and charts, leading field visits, and addressing ethical issues.
It slows down on the exact definition of injury and a discussion of specific types of energy but then moves on to vivid examples of energy sources that can cause harm: stampeding animals, harvesting knives, landmines, chemical fumes, bodies of water….
Next come modules, which can be used in sequence, or as freestanding lessons addressing specific types of injury, for example, “Burns” and, “Transport Injuries.” Along the way case studies are used featuring a fictitious worker, “Dula,” and her fictitious village. These realistic stories, along with the accompanying illustrations will help the worker hold the attention of locals and teach them what they need to know.
Perhaps the wisest advice given is to be sure, whenever possible, to enlist the involvement of international agencies, local public health staff, the school principal, religious leaders, elders, etc., in addition to an intentionally diverse group of residents.
I have to admit that on first reading, I felt the book was elementary. Then I read it again and understood it is exactly what it is designed to be and exactly what has been missing. Grass Roots Injury Prevention trains the field worker, from scratch if needed, using an elegantly appropriate writing style and illustrations that enhance.
With this guide, the field worker will enable communities to get injury prevention right and sustain it.
In summary, this book will save lives.
Note: Practical Action Publishing deserves mention here as it is a company committed to “supporting international development through the dissemination of knowledge.” This company prints books and peer reviewed journals. It collaborates with over 70 groups including the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund, and offers a book voucher and donation system. This system provides published resources for those who need them most, but may not have the financial or logistical means to obtain them.
Have you experienced a preventible injury? Share your experiences or thoughts about Grass Roots Injury Prevention in the comments below.