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FOR RELEASE: May 6, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Childhood Unintentional Injury Death Rate Down Nearly 40 Percent
Still #1 Killer of Kids Causing about 15 Deaths per Day

New research unveiled by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and Johnson & Johnson shows that from 1987 to 2000, the unintentional injury death rate for children 14 and under has dropped by nearly 40 percent.

“This is one of the most dramatic declines ever seen in a children’s health issue,” said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS program at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Despite this tremendous progress, unintentional injuries remain the number one killer of children from age 1 to 14 in the United States. In fact, unintentional injuries claim more than 5,600 children’s lives each year - or an average of 15 children each day. And there were more than 11.8 million medical visits for unintentional injury among U.S. children ages 14 and under in 2000 - or one injury visit for every five children.

This year is the15th anniversary of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, the first and only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury. To mark this milestone, SAFE KIDS and its founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson undertook a comprehensive study on child safety in America, A Report to the Nation: Trends in Unintentional Childhood Injury Mortality, 1987-2000.

The study unveiled the following startling trends in motor vehicle occupant injuries, airway obstruction and drowning:

  • From 1987 to 2000, the motor vehicle occupant death rate among children ages 14 and under declined just 16 percent. The death rate among children ages 5 to 9 declined even less - just 1 percent. Motor vehicle occupant injury remains the leading cause of injury-related death among children.
  • While the airway obstruction death rate decreased 24 percent for children 14 and under, there has been no progress for airway obstruction injury among infants under age 1.
  • The unintentional childhood drowning death rate declined 32 percent from 1987 to 2000. Despite this decline, drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under. What can parents do now? When it comes to these three areas of greatest need, SAFE KIDS suggests parents follow these first steps:
  • All children ages 12 and under should be properly restrained in the back seat on every motor vehicle ride. Infants should ride in rear-facing safety seats until they are at least 12 months old and weigh 20 pounds. Children over 1 weighing 20 to 40 pounds may ride in forward-facing child safety seats. And children over 40 pounds should be correctly secured in belt-positioning boosters or other appropriate child restraints until the adult lap and shoulder belts fit correctly (approximately age 8).
  • Parents should determine whether or not small toys and objects in the home present a choking hazard to a child and if so, they should get rid of them or keep them out of reach. In addition, they should supervise children while they are eating and playing and not allow children under age 6 to eat small, round or hard foods. Parents need to closely monitor babies’ sleeping environments to make sure there are no suffocation hazards such as pillows and comforters.
  • Children must be actively supervised by an adult when they are near water. They should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device when on a boat, near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports Air filled swimming aids, such as “water wings” are not considered safety devices and are not substitutes for personal flotation devices. All residential pools and spas should be surrounded by a self-closing, self-latching gate.

The study’s results coincide with this week’s National SAFE KIDS Week observance, with the theme Wrap Your Arms Around Safety. Throughout the week, hundreds of SAFE KIDS coalitions and chapters will conduct safety fairs and community events all across the nation to teach families how to prevent injuries and save lives. Locally, Oklahoma SAFE KIDS is encouraging classroom teachers, principals, scout troop leaders and others to check out a new video for school-age children, which focuses on preventing unintentional injuries.

“We want adults to show this video and discuss with their children - in an age-appropriate way - how they can avoid becoming the next statistic,” said Collar.

The video is available for loan at no cost at more than 100 county health department sites in Oklahoma and at all 22 Regional Educational Service Centers (RESC). For information on the RESC nearest you, call the Oklahoma State Department of Education, (405) 521-4155.

For more information or for a copy of the SAFE KIDS/Johnson & Johnson A Report to the Nation: Trends in Unintentional Childhood Injury Mortality, 1987-2000, contact the National SAFE KIDS Campaign at (202) 662-0600 or visit www.safekids.org.

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