Intentional injury and violence in Cape Town, South Africa: an epidemiological analysis of trauma admissions data

Type Journal Article - Global health action
Title Intentional injury and violence in Cape Town, South Africa: an epidemiological analysis of trauma admissions data
Volume 8
Issue 10
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015

Injury is a truly global health issue that has enormous societal and economic consequences in all countries. Interpersonal violence is now widely recognized as important global public health issues that can be addressed through evidence-based interventions. In South Africa, as in many low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), a lack of ongoing, systematic injury surveillance has limited the ability to characterize the burden of violence-related injury and to develop prevention programmes.


To describe the profile of trauma presenting to the trauma centre of Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa – relating to interpersonal violence, using data collected from a newly implemented surveillance system. Particular emphasis was placed on temporal aspects of injury epidemiology, as well as age and sex differentiation.


Data were collected prospectively using a standardized trauma admissions form for all patients presenting to the trauma centre. An epidemiological analysis was conducted on 16 months of data collected from June 2010 to October 2011.


A total of 8445 patients were included in the analysis, in which the majority were violence-related. Specifically, 35% of records included violent trauma and, of those, 75% of victims were male. There was a clear temporal pattern: a greater proportion of intentional injuries occur during the night, while unintentional injury peaks late in the afternoon. In total, two-third of all intentional trauma is inflicted on the weekends, as is 60% of unintentional trauma. Where alcohol was recorded in the record, 72% of cases involved intentional injury. Sex was again a key factor as over 80% of all records involving alcohol or substance abuse were associated with males. The findings highlighted the association between violence, young males, substance use, and weekends.


This study provides the basis for evidence-based interventions to reduce the burden of intentional injury. Furthermore, it demonstrates the value of locally appropriate, ongoing, systematic public health surveillance in LMIC.

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