The No. 1 killer of children is accidents. More than 9,000 children in the U.S. died in 2009 from what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call “unintentional injury.”
As grim as is the reality of children who don’t live to see adulthood, the cold statistics are actually good news—death rates from unintentional injuries among people from birth to 19 declined almost 30 percent from 2000 to 2009, according to the CDC.
Despite the overall good news, a couple of causes of death did see an increase—suffocation rose 54 percent among babies younger than 1 year, and poisonings increased a whopping 91 percent among teenagers 15 to 19. The CDC attributes that stark reality to prescription drug overdoses.
The graphically colorful report in the CDC’s April issue of Vital Signs is the first such study to depict fatal unintentional injury trends by cause and by state for this age group.
The most common cause of accidental death is motor vehicle crashes. Other leading causes are:
Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said, “Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before. In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 children’s lives being saved.”
Significantly, death rates from motor vehicle crashes declined 41 percent during the decade of study. The CDC attributes that improvement to improvements in the use of child-safety and booster seats, and the implementation of graduated licensing systems for teen drivers.
Differences in injury death rates varied enormously from state to state. Massachusetts notched fewer than five deaths per 100,000 children, versus New Jersey, South Dakota and Mississippi, which tallied 23 deaths per 100,000 kids.
Addressing the problem of infant suffocation the CDC says, requires widespread adherence to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for safe sleeping environments. Those measures include infants sleeping alone, on their backs in cribs with no loose bedding or soft toys.
To reduce prescription drug poisoning, the agency says, providers must prescribe drugs appropriately, and parents must ensure their teens store and dispose of drugs properly, and they should monitor these practices. Also, teens must be discouraged from sharing medications. The CDC also recommends that states establish prescription drug monitoring programs. We recently wrote about prescription drug misadventures being responsible for a disproportionate number of childrens’ emergency room visits.
“Every four seconds,” said Linda C. Degutis, director of the CDC’s National Center for injury Prevention and Control, “a child is treated for an injury in the emergency department, and every hour, a child dies as a result of an injury. Child injury remains a serious problem in which everyone–including parents, state health officials, health care providers, government and community groups–has a critical role to play to protect and save the lives of our young people.”
For more information about preventing injuries to children and a copy of the CDC’s National Action Plan on Child Injury Prevention, compiled in conjunction with 60 partner organizations, link here.