Territory suffers accident epidemic

Accidents and injuries kill more Yukon men than both cancer and heart disease. From 1996 to 1999, 26 per cent of male deaths by major causes were…

Accidents and injuries kill more Yukon men than both cancer and heart disease.

From 1996 to 1999, 26 per cent of male deaths by major causes were caused by traumatic injuries.

This rate is three times the national average.

Yukon woman aren’t much safer and are two and a half times more likely to die from traumatic injuries than the average Canadian.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s medical officer of health, wants the epidemic to end.

“We have an active and adventurous population and we should be able to continue to live that way,” said Hanley.

“But we need to do these things more safely and we need to keep injuries in the limelight.”

As a health officer, Hanley sees the injury statistics. As an emergency-room physician, he stitches those injuries back together every day.

“I’ve seen many preventable injuries and also a number of near misses,” he said.

“A lot of concussed bicyclists come in with cracked helmets and you can see that it saved their lives.”

But getting the public behind action on injury prevention has proven to be a challenge, he added.

To raise awareness about the Yukon’s injury epidemic, Hanley has recruited Dr. Robert Conn, the founder of the SmartRisk Foundation, a national organization dedicated to preventing injuries.

Conn trained as a children’s heart surgeon, but his teacher didn’t want his young students learning how to do heart transplants until they knew where the organs came from.

Therefore, Conn was first trained on the harvest team, recovering possible transplants from child donors.

“I had never stopped to think about the donors,” said Conn at a news conference on Monday.

“These donors are young people who are healthy one moment and brain dead the next.”

And these injuries are usually preventable.

“We call these ‘accidents’ and that really influences how people think,” he said.

“It makes it sound like an unavoidable act of fate.

“We all live in a world convinced that these things happen to other people, not to me.”

We need to discuss “accidents” for what they really are: Car crashes, burns, drownings and poisonings.

A great way to change our perception of accidents is with teenagers, said Conn.

“If you ask them, most youth will tell you that safety sucks. It’s for nerds, not cool.”

That’s because we learn safety through rules or “don’t” messages.

Telling a teenager to not do something is like waving a red flag in front of a bull — they’ll go out of their way to prove you wrong, said Conn.

SmartRisk advocates people cast safety in a different light.

It teaches youth to wear seatbelts so they can make the party or to wear helmets so they can get home safely after work.

To make the case, Conn is holding a free public forum tomorrow at the Beringia Centre at 7 p.m.

Hanley hopes the forum will be the first step towards making the Yukon a national safety leader.

The accident and injury statistics include workplace injuries, said Hanley.

“And we all know from watching the numbers in front of the WCB building that workplace injuries are a big part,” he said.

“We also know that young workers are disproportionally affected.

“So we’re looking forward to a lot more collaboration with the workers’ compensation board.”

But it’s hard to get hard data on these injuries, and the doctors couldn’t say why the number of traumatic injuries in the Yukon is so high.

“That’s a question that we’ve been puzzling over for a number of years,” said Hanley.

“But we do know that the problem is shared across the North.”

A number of factors, such as a more independent and risk-taking northern spirit, and a high rate of substance abuse may contribute to the problem.

Also, the northern population tends to be younger, said Conn.

“And this is very much a young disease. Youth are always taking more risks.”

“People make good decisions if they actually see the risk,” Conn added.

“I don’t think people are ignoring this problem. Most of us just don’t see the risk. ”

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read