August 1, 2005

Injuries Sustained at Home Remain a Leading Cause of Death for Children, Teens in the US

CINCINNATI - Preventable home injuries for children and adolescents in the United States account for more than 2,800 deaths each year. While the number of incidents have decreased in recent years, fatalities from unintentional injuries at home continue to be a leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S., according to Kieran J. Phelan, M.D., pediatrics director of the Center for Evidence Based Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and an author of the study that appears in the Aug. 2, 2005 issue of Pediatrics.

The study is the first comprehensive analysis of residential deaths among children and teens (younger than 20 years old) in the United States since 1985. It is based on statistics reported between 1985 and 1997 from the National Vital Statistics System Mortality Data.

The majority of unintentional residential injuries are preventable, the study's authors say. Most deaths were attributed to fires, submersion or suffocation, poisoning and falls.

Between 1985-1997, an average of 55 percent of unintentional deaths among U.S. children took place at home. Meanwhile, fatal residential injuries decreased by 22 percent during the same period. The death rate due to residential injuries was highest in children younger than 1 to 5 years of age as compared to older children, boys as compared to girls, and black children as compared to white children. The authors attributed the racial disproportion to socioeconomic factors such as substandard housing, lower levels of education, and poverty.

Strategies to eliminate disparities in residential injury-related deaths, include the development and enforcement of health-based housing standards. This alone could reduce the burden of childhood injury-related deaths in the United States, the authors say.

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