We need to become a lot more careful. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) data, published today, looks at the last decade of accidents and shows that the leading cause of death for those between 0 and 19 years is unintentional injury. It's the fifth leading cause of death for newborns and those less than a year old.

The data was complied from National Vital Statistics System and is grouped according to age, sex, race / ethnicity, as well as the cause of injury and by state. Encouragingly, the death rate from injury in 0-19 year olds, which came in a little over 9,000, decreased 29% from 15.5 to 11.0 per 100,000 population. A worrying indicator was the rate of poisoning, in part due to prescription drug overdoses, that almost doubled from 1.7 to 3.3 per 100,000. Childhood motor vehicle deaths declined 41%, but are still the leading cause of unintentional deaths. By state, the data varied widely from as little as 4.0 to 25.1 per 100,000 during 2009.

The high numbers of preventable accidental deaths highlights the attention that is still needed in addressing this aspect of public health - The 2012 National Action Plan for Child Injury Prevention provides a list of actions that should be taken in areas of surveillance, research, communication, education, health care, and public policy to focus efforts in saving lives by reducing injuries.

The CDC's new eye-catching brochure breaks the statistics down further, into more digestible and immediately accessible facts :
  • 1 Child dies ever hour from an injury

  • 1 in 5 Child Deaths are due to injury

  • Every 4 seconds a child is treated in an emergency room, for an accidental injury

  • For every child that dies there are 25 hospitalizations, 925 treated in ER and thousands treated in doctors offices.
And these numbers are just from the United States. The report then goes on to compare US figures with those around the world. In terms of child deaths in those aged 0-14, Mexico comes in at the top of their list with 12.7 deaths per 100,000 population. New Zealand follows surprisingly closely at 11.1, and the United States does little better at 8.7. These numbers come into perspective when compared with Sweden, Netherlands and the UK where numbers are little above 2 per 100,000.

The Midwest and Southern States have higher rates than the north eastern states, California, Oregon and Washington State, with Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota amongst the highest. Perhaps the more rural lifestyle and lower population leads to more traffic accidents playing a larger part.

The brochure also looks at the 9,143 child deaths and breaks it down into causes :
  • 4,564 - Motor Vehicles

  • 1,160 - Suffocation

  • 151 - Falling

  • 983 - Drowning

  • 391 - Fire

  • 824 - Poisoning
The suggestions to reduce the numbers include :
  • Increasing data collection and identifying problem areas

  • More use of proven strategies. such as gradual drivers licenses, learn to swim programs and more oversight of prescription drugs

  • Improving facilities for poisoning, trauma care and preventative services such as first aid and CPR training.
The CDC also suggests that members of the public become better role models by acting more safely, taking precautions such as wearing seat belts or helmets and following safety advice and generally being more aware of children and youngsters in the home, school and playground.

Written by Rupert Shepherd