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December 17, 2008

Holiday Safety Health Fair Teaches Baltimore Families Importance of Injury Prevention during the Holidays

More Than 150 Children and Parents Take Part in “Give the Gift of Safety” Event

The Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore City Fire Department, Herring Run Head Start (HRHS) and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) are teaming to help keep Baltimore families safer during the holidays. This year’s event, taking place at HRHS, marks the first Holiday Safety Health Fair featuring the CARES mobile safety center, a 40-foot vehicle designed as a house on wheels that delivers lifesaving information and low-cost safety products to Baltimore City families. Operating costs for the CARES mobile safety center are covered through a generous three-year grant from CareFirst. 


The CARES Mobile Safety Center teaches parents and children how to protect each other from preventable injuries that often occur in the home. For the holiday season, health educators from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Baltimore City Fire Department are using interactive exhibits in each of the rooms to teach parents and children how to prevent burns, falls, strangulation, poisoning and other unintended injuries in their homes and neighborhoods. Many household items used during the holidays such as candles and holiday decorations, as well as changes to family routines, can all lead to injuries. As the holiday season also brings cold weather, it’s important to be vigilant about home heating hazards and preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.


“Injuries are the number one cause of death in children in the United States, and disproportionately affect low income families. While many injuries are preventable, the challenge is making injury prevention education and safety items accessible to those who need it most,” notes Andrea C. Gielen, ScD, ScM, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy. “Through a generous three-year grant from CareFirst which supports our mobile safety center, we are able to meet this challenge by providing families in Baltimore with the information and tools they need year round to avoid injuries. On behalf of the Injury Center, I’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to CareFirst for their commitment to preventing injuries in our community.” 


Approximately 4,000 individuals in Baltimore have been served in 2008 since the Injury Center received funding from CareFirst, in January. CareFirst has contributed $480,000 to fund the CARES Mobile Safety Center for three years. The program also offers products such as car seats and baby gates at reduced cost to help make safety more affordable for all families.


Maria Harris Tildon, CareFirst senior vice president of public policy and community affairs, emphasized the not-for-profit’s commitment to programs like the Johns Hopkins CARES Safety Center. “In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we sometimes lower our guard on household hazards we'd normally spot. This event is a great way to focus on holiday safety around the home and the Johns Hopkins CARES safety program is a great example of creatively engaging families and teaching safety year round.” CareFirst is funding the program through its CareFirst Commitment initiative, part of an ongoing effort to improve health care quality, safety, affordability and access throughout Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area. In 2008, the program provided $35 million to worthwhile programs, including Johns Hopkins CARES Safety Center.  Since it began in 2005, CareFirst Commitment has committed more than $130 million to community programs. 


“Herring Run Head Start is committed to ensuring the children we serve are healthy, ready, happy and safe,” said Nancy Thomas, director of the program. “Collaborating with other organizations who share these same principles makes it easier for us to deliver on our mission.”


In addition to the mobile safety center, the health fair also provides free home safety kits to each of the families, raffle giveaways of safety products, and activities through the Model Health! Promoting Nutrition and Physical Activity in Children grant, sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education through a USDA Team Nutrition grant. Activities will incorporate safety information. For example, the nutrition station where families make fruit kabobs includes information on choking hazards, and the physical activity station features a warm-up/cool-down exercise designed to teach families the importance of stretching to prevent injuries. Safety experts will also demonstrate how to correctly install and use car seats at the CARES Child Safety Seat demonstration station.


Public Affairs Media Contact for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or tmparson@jhsph.edu.