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December 11, 2008

Report Prompts Discussion about the Leading Cause of Death in Children—Unintentional Injuries 

A new report issued by the World Health Organization and UNICEF was the focus of a discussion by public health and injury prevention researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on December 10. The World Report on Child Injury Prevention is the first global report issued on child injury prevention. Bloomberg School researchers Adnan Hyder and Andrea Gielen were contributors to the report and organized the symposium Child Injuries: A Global to Local Call for Action.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Adnan Hyder, MD MPH PhD, an editor of the report and an associate professor and Director of the International Injury Research Unit in the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health. ”More than 800,000 children are killed by unintentional injuries each year.  In addition, tens of thousands require hospital care for non-fatal injuries and many are left with lifelong disabilities.”

At the symposium, experts examined the impact of road traffic injuries, drowning, burns, falls and poisonings on the global community, specifically in Latin America, India and the United States. The panel also presented several case studies in child injury prevention. According to Hyder, the global report estimates in 2004 nearly 260,000 children suffered road-traffic crash fatalities, 175,000 drowned, 45,000 suffered fatal acute poisoning, 46,000 children died from falls and nearly 96,000 were fatally injured as a result of a fire-related burn. While the vast majority of child injuries occur in the developing world, injuries remain the number one cause of death for children in the United States.

Many of these injuries could have been prevented or drastically reduced if injury interventions had been in place the report suggests.  Some developed countries have been able to reduce their child injury deaths by up to 50 percent over the past three decades through legislation, law enforcement, strengthening of health care systems and education. The World Report on Child Injury Prevention recommends several proven measures designed to prevent unintentional injuries such as child-appropriate seatbelts and helmets; hot tap water temperature regulations; child-resistant closures on medicine bottles, lighters, and household product containers; graduated drivers’ license laws; separate traffic lanes for motorcycles or bicycles; draining unnecessary water from baths and buckets; and redesigning nursery furniture, toys and playground equipment.

“Despite great progress, injury remains the number one threat to children,” said Andrea Gielen, ScD, ScM, an author of the report and director of the Bloomberg School’s Center for Injury Research and Policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management. “Effective intervention, policies, programs and products exist, but challenges remain to their widespread adoption and dissemination.  The good news in the report is that an estimated 1,000 children could be saved every day if we apply what’s known to work.”--Natalie Wood-Wright.