The burden of disease due to injuries has elicited virtually no public health response in the countries of central and eastern Europe, even though injuries have long been a much greater problem in the east of Europe than in the west, with children especially affected. This paper seeks to identify factors that have inhibited policy development on this topic and to draw lessons for health policy development in this region more generally. Several factors emerge. Deaths from injuries have had low visibility. Data have not been assembled in a way that would facilitate identification of the burden of disease that they constitute. Those organizations responsible for public health, whether within government or at local level, were typically very weak with little capacity either to identify the nature and scale of threats to the health of their populations or to develop strategies to address them. There was uncertainty about ownership, with fragmentation of responsibility but no tradition of intersectoral working. Non-governmental organizations, which have placed injuries on the health policy agenda in the west, are weak or non-existent. International donors, who could have had a role, have focused on issues such as health care reform. This analysis provides a potential framework for examining policy responses, or lack thereof, to other health challenges in this region. It highlights the need for a better understanding of the potential for using available data, which, in turn, requires a major strengthening of capacity. However, in many countries, there is a need for new ways of working, involving a broadening of the sense of ownership, with clearly designated responsibilities but designed in ways that encourage rather than inhibit intersectoral action. There is also a need to develop non-governmental organizations that have sufficient capacity to undertake their own analyses and to place issues on the agenda.