When most people hear Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health concerns used in the same sentence, they often think of preventable illnesses and communicable diseases. They do not think about motor vehicle accidents or injuries sustained in car crashes. But automobile collisions are a public health problem.

The CDC has identified six public health concerns as “winnable battles” – one of those six targeted areas includes injuries from motor vehicle accidents. This designation means there will be increased attention and resources focused on preventing auto accident injuries and tragic highway fatalities.

Winnable Battles

According to the CDC, the agency coined the term winnable battles to describe public health priorities with large-scale impact on health that also have known and effective intervention strategies. The goal of the winnable battles program is to “identify optimal strategies and to rally resources and partnerships to accelerate a measurable impact on health.”

Dr. Thomas Frieden, who became director of the CDC in June 2009, says the CDC will focus on the concerns designated as winnable battles because proven programs can save lives and reduce harm for each of these health problems. Frieden also believes that the government can make dramatic improvements if the available money and manpower are prioritized for these issues.

In its effort to reduce motor vehicle injuries, the CDC states that it actively supports evidence-based interventions such as:

  • Mandatory seat-belt and child-restraint laws
  • Graduated driver licensing
  • Ignition interlock devices to prevent impaired driving

The CDC also plans to work closely with public-health partners to support related Federal Priorities and Initiatives, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) campaign to reduce distracted driving. These partnerships will identify strategies to reduce the overall health burden from motor-vehicle injuries and the other public-health concerns designated as winnable battles.

A reduction in motor-vehicle injuries may be achieved by implementing proven intervention strategies and by raising awareness of the common causes of auto accidents, including distracted, impaired and aggressive driving. With targeted effort and specialized resources from the CDC, perhaps this is a public health battle that can be won.