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Report: Accidental death rate in kids trending downward

Monday April 16, 2012
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Death rates from unintentional injuries among children and adolescents from birth to age 19 declined by nearly 30% from 2000 to 2009, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, more than 9,000 children died from unintentional injury in the United States in 2009. Although rates for most causes of child injuries have been dropping, suffocation rates are on the rise, with a 54% increase in reported suffocation among infants under a year old, according to the report. Poisoning death rates also increased, with a 91% increase among teens ages 15 to 19, largely from prescription drug overdose.

The report is the CDCís first study to show fatal unintentional injury trends by cause and by state for children from birth to age 19. The most common cause of death from unintentional injury for children is motor vehicle crashes; other leading causes include suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires and falls.

"Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before," CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. "In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 childrenís lives being saved.

"But we can do more. Itís tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury."

Child injury death rates varied substantially by state in 2009, ranging from less than 5 deaths per 100,000 children in Massachusetts and New Jersey to more than 23 deaths per 100,000 children in South Dakota and Mississippi.

Death rates from motor vehicle crashes dropped by 41% from 2000 to 2009. Several factors have played a role in this reduction, including improvements in child safety and booster seat use and use of graduated driverís licensing systems for teen drivers, according to the CDC. However, crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional injury death for children.

Poisoning deaths have been steadily increasing among 15- to 19 year-olds, largely from prescription drug overdoses. According to other CDC research, appropriate prescribing, proper storage and disposal, discouraging medication sharing and state-based prescription drug monitoring programs could reduce these deaths.

The increase in suffocation deaths among infants could be curbed by following American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for safe infant sleeping environments. According to these recommendations, infants should sleep in safe cribs, alone, on their backs and with no loose bedding or soft toys.

"Every four seconds, a child is treated for an injury in the ED, and every hour, a child dies as a result of an injury," Linda C. Degutis, DrPH, MSN, director of the CDCís National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in the news release. "Child injury remains a seriously problem in which everyone — including parents, state health officials, healthcare providers, government and community groups — has a critical role to play to protect and save the lives of our young people."

To read the report in the April issue of Vital Signs, visit http://1.usa.gov/HX3taA.

In conjunction with the report, the CDC and more than 60 partner organizations released a "National Action Plan on Child Injury Prevention." The goals of the plan are to raise awareness about the problem of child injury and the effects on the nation; highlight prevention solutions by uniting stakeholders around a common set of goals and strategies; and mobilize action in a national, coordinated effort to reduce child injury. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/safechild/nap.

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