According to the World Health Organisation:
- A burn is an injury to the skin or other organic tissue primarily caused by heat or due to radiation, radioactivity, electricity, friction or contact with chemicals.
- Globally burns are a serious public health problem. An estimated 265,000 deaths occur each year from fires alone. More deaths occur from scalds, electrical burns and other forms of burns for which global data are not available.
- WHO and partners are pilot testing a new burn data collection instrument. There is a lack of comprehensive data on burns globally from 'other sources'. This includes burns caused by weapons in conflict zones. The Phoenix Foundation will aim to contribute with any data it collects through its work to the WHO.
- The vast majority of burns happen in low- and middle-income countries. Non-fatal burns are a leading cause of morbidity, including prolonged hospitalisation, disfigurement and disability, often with resulting stigma and rejection.
- In many high-income countries, burn death rates have been decreasing, and the rate of child deaths from burns is currently over 7 times higher in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
- Burns are among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost in low- and middle-income countries.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to burns injuries. Burns are the 11th leading cause of death of children aged 1–9 years and are also the fifth most common cause of non-fatal childhood injuries. While a major risk is improper adult supervision, a considerable number of burn injuries in children result from child maltreatment.
- People living in low- and middle-income countries are at higher risk for burns than people living in high-income countries. Within all countries however, burn risk correlates with socioeconomic status.
- High-income countries have made considerable progress in lowering rates of burn deaths, through a combination of prevention strategies and improvements in the care of people affected by burns. Most of these advances in prevention and care have been incompletely applied in low- and middle-income countries. Increased efforts to do so would likely lead to significant reductions in rates of burn-related death and disability.
- Prevention strategies should address the hazards for specific burn injuries, education for vulnerable populations and training of communities in first aid. An effective burn prevention plan should be multi-sectoral and include broad efforts to:
- improve awareness
- develop and enforce effective policy
- describe burden and identify risk factors
- set research priorities with promotion of promising interventions
- provide burn prevention programmes
- strengthen burn care
- strengthen capacities to carry out all of the above.
Burns Fact sheet No. 365 WHO