Even though we've seen a recent resurgence in infectious diseases like the measles, which has reported outbreaks across the United States, infectious diseases are no longer the leading cause of death for children. Injuries are now the leading cause of death for children ages 19 and under, and many of these injuries can be prevented.
According to the CDC, an average of 12,175 children between the ages of birth to 19 years died each year in the United States from an unintentional injury. Psychologists have been researching ways to prevent these injuries from being so prevalent, and recently presented their findings at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Science Daily reports.
"Many different factors contribute to unintentional injuries, so if we are able to stop just one of these risk factors, the injury could be prevented," Dr. David C. Schwebel, of the University of Alabama Birmingham, stated at the convention. "By using novel behavioral strategies, we can possibly prevent injuries that have previously been seen as unavoidable accidents."
In addition to the high number of deaths injuries like burns, drowning, car accidents, and poisoning caused in children, the number of emergency room visits each year is astronomical. More than 6.7 million American children made a trip to the emergency room due to injury in 2017 the CDC reports. Dr. Schwebel outlined a model comprised of three categories for risk factors — environment-based, caregiver-based and child-based factors. Each of these factors can contribute to injury, but Schwebel states that if just one of these risk factors is changed or removed, the instance of injury would be less. Basically, it means taking more care to ensure children are in safe environments and surrounded by safe people.
"To solve this problem, we developed the Stamp in Safety Program where children wear a nametag, and teachers have stamps to reward the children on their nametags for engaging in safe behavior," he said of the caregiver-based risk factor. "While on the surface this seems to focus on rewarding children for safe behavior, its primary goal is to get teachers engaged and paying attention."
He also added that since we've seen such a decline in the deaths of children from infectious diseases, it's time to address the issue of death due to injuries. "Globally, we are amid an unprecedented decrease in health burden from communicable and infectious diseases. As the world develops, health risks change," said Schwebel. "Psychologists have the expertise, the needed behavioral theory, and the needed methodologies to understand and take steps to prevent the significant health burden of unintentional injuries."
The CDC also provides a wide range of advice on how to keep children safe from accidental injury.