By Emily Heller
As state legislatures across the country gear up for the beginning of session, NCSL staff are looking back at 2016 state action on injury prevention, an important public health issue including child abuse and neglect, older adult falls, teen dating violence and traumatic brain injury.
In 2016, legislators considered 260 injury prevention bills in 40 states.
And no wonder—injury prevention remains a key issue for state lawmakers because of its high toll on health and finances.
Unintentional and violence-related injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 44, and each year’s injuries are estimated to cost $406 billion in lifetime medical expenses and lost productivity.
NCSL tracks legislation on injury prevention introduced in all 50 states and D.C. through its Injury Prevention Legislation Database. Read on for trends in enacted legislation from 2016, and be sure to check out the database and NCSL’s other injury prevention resources for more information.
Child Abuse and Neglect
State efforts to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect was a major trend in 2016 legislation—11 states adopted resolutions recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Child maltreatment reporting was another focus. California Assembly Bill 1001 expands the definition of mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect to include board members of both public and private organizations whose duties require direct contact and supervision of children, including foster family agencies. Michigan Senate Bill 334 requires mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect to make an immediate report to a centralized intake system via telephone or an online reporting system. In addition, the act requires written reports be submitted to the centralized intake system instead of a county department of human services.
Several states enacted legislation related to child abuse prevention taskforces or councils. Missouri House Bill 1877, for example, creates the Missouri Task Force on the Prevention of Infant Abuse and Neglect.
Older Adult Falls
Seven states considered bills aiming to prevent older adult falls in 2016. Hawaii enacted legislation (House Bill 1878) requiring the Executive Office on Aging to develop an evaluation system to determine the effectiveness of aging and disability resource centers in the state. The law also appropriates funds to continue to support fall prevention and early detection services within the Department of Health.
Washington House Bill 2678 provides a payment incentive to prevent falls in nursing homes. The law establishes quality measures and a quality rating system for nursing home payment rates. Quality measures include the percentage of long-stay residents experiencing a fall causing major injury.
Teen Dating Violence
Raising awareness was also a trend in teen dating violence legislation. Five states—California, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina and Wisconsin—passed resolutions or bills recognizing February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Virginia enacted legislation (House Bill 659) requiring high school family life education curricula to incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention of dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury was one of the hottest injury prevention topics of 2016, with legislators in 34 states introducing a combined total of 134 bills. As with other injury topics, awareness building was one of the most common types of legislation passed. State lawmakers in five states—California, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island—designated a day, week or month to raise awareness of traumatic brain injury.
Much of the enacted legislation addressed traumatic brain injury among youth athletes, including laws dealing with removal from play after a suspected brain injury, coach training and return to play and return to learn/school protocols.
Indiana Senate Bill 234 requires coaches to complete a certified coaching education course, which includes information on concussions, before beginning coaching duties and at least once every two years thereafter. Virginia House Bill 954 requires each local school division to include a “return to learn” protocol within its concussion policies and procedures. School personnel must be alert to potential cognitive and academic issues among students suffering traumatic brain injuries, and must accommodate a gradual return to full participation in academic activities.
Several states enacted legislation expanding concussion protocols beyond school-based athletics. For example, New Mexico Senate Bill 137 establishes brain injury protocols for youth athletic activities located outside of the school setting. Delaware House Bill 404 includes a range of measures to prevent traumatic brain injury among youth athletes playing in events sponsored by leagues, clubs and other organizations.
Will trends from 2016 injury prevention legislation continue in the new year? What hot issues will leaders focus on in 2017? One thing’s for sure—NCSL will continue to track injury prevention issues and trends in 2017.
Emily Heller is a research analyst in NCSL's Health program.