Unintentional injury leading cause of child death

April 26, 2012

Unintentional injuries remain the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States, despite a decline in the overall annual rate. What can health care providers do to help keep children safe?

Unintentional injuries remain the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States despite a decline in the overall annual rate, according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Analysis of 2000-2009 mortality data from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System showed that the overall annual unintentional injury death rate for persons aged 19 years and younger dropped 29% (from 15.5 to 11 per 100,000 population) from 2000 to 2009. The rate decreased among all age groups except for newborns and infants younger than 1 year; in this age group, rates increased from 23.1 to 27.7 per 100,000, primarily as a result of a 54% increase in reported suffocations.

The overall decrease in child injury rates was largely because of a 41% drop in motor vehicle crash deaths in children (attributed to improved use of child safety seats and booster seats, among other factors). Motor vehicle traffic-related deaths, however, are still the leading cause of injury deaths for children and adolescents aged 5 to 19 years.

Poisoning death rates nearly doubled, driven by a 91% increase in deaths among teens aged 15 to 19 years, partly because of prescription drug overdoses.

Deaths from other unintentional injuries, including drowning, fires and burns, and falls, decreased. The report did not include injuries caused by violence or maltreatment.

According to the CDC, health care providers can help to reduce deaths by providing education and anticipatory guidance to patients and families and advocate in their communities to identify risks, educate community members, and advocate for change, as outlined in the National Action Plan for Child Injury Prevention.

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