Earlier this week, members of the public health community rejoiced at a major victory for healthier Americans. After years of lobbying and the activism of public health professionals everywhere, we realized the fruits of our labor and paved the way for our children to live longer lives. I would have done cartwheels if I were coordinated, athletic, and wore proper cartwheeling shoes.
No, I am not talking about CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco (although that’s pretty ground-breaking too).
I’m talking about this story. “Fewer U.S. children dying in car crashes.” According to a CDC report released on Tuesday, deaths occurring to children under 12 due to car crashes decreased by 43% from 2002 to 2011. Since crash deaths are the leading cause of child death in the country, this is a big deal.
As a public health advocate, there is nothing more I like better than seeing this kind of headline. But it was accompanied by this statistic: one in three children who died in car crashes 2011 were not wearing a seat belt. That means 3,000 car accident deaths of the 9,000 that occurred over the last decade might have been prevented if seat belts had been worn.
Even more startling was this study finding: Almost half of all black (45%) and Hispanic (46%) children who died in crashes were not buckled up. That’s 1 in 2 children between 2009-2010.
So how can we make sure we continue this downward trend in child deaths due to car crashes in the next decade? The evidence is very clear on public health strategies to prevent child deaths in car accidents. Parents should use appropriate car seats, booster seats and seat belts on every car trip. Strategies to reduce disparities in car accident deaths should also be developed and tested.
At NICHQ, we have applied quality improvement to some of the most daunting public health problems facing children, including childhood obesity, asthma, and sickle cell disease. When we start a project, it begins with a bold aim statement: What are we trying to accomplish?
Healthy People 2020’s objective is a good place to start: Increase age-appropriate vehicle restraint system use in children aged 0 to 7 years by 10% by 2020. But how can we get this done faster? How about 20% or even 30%? Let’s expand this goal to children aged 12 and under. Because 9,000 children is too many.
Weigh in on your ideas to realize this goal in the comments section. Or join our Facebook page and share your opinion!