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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 20, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 42
Promoting Child Safety With Computer Kiosks

Researchers find parents are more likely to follow info customized for them

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

Computer technology that provides parents with customized safety information can be an effective way to help their children avoid injury, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Parents who received safety information tailored to their family's specific circumstances were significantly more likely to follow safety recommendations compared to parents who received general information. The study is published in the August edition of the journal Pediatrics.

"Injuries are the leading cause of death for children in the United States. We have effective ways to prevent injuries, like smoke detectors and car safety seats, but many families, especially low- income families, remain unprotected," said Andrea Carlson Gielen, lead author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Bloomberg School. "Our study shows that parents respond best when safety messages are tailored to their specific needs and beliefs."

The randomized controlled trial of the Safety in Seconds program involved 759 parents of children ages 4 to 66 months. The participants used a computer kiosk set up in the Emergency Department of the Children's Center to answer a series of questions about their children, their own experiences and personal beliefs about safety. After parents completed the questionnaire, the computer generated a personalized safety report based on their responses. The control group received a generic health report.

The researchers conducted follow-up interviews with the parents two to four weeks later to see how they responded to the safety messages. According to the results, the parents who received the customized safety reports scored significantly higher on knowledge of smoke alarm use and safe poison storage; they were also more likely to report correct child safety seat use. Ninety-three percent of the intervention parents said they read at least some of the safety report, and 57 percent said they read the entire report. Lower-income parents who read the tailored reports were more likely to store poisons in the home safely compared to the control group. Higher-income parents in the intervention group were more likely to report correct child safety seat use than the control group parents. The intervention was equally effective for those with injured children and those who were being seen for a medical problem.

"Every year, millions of families visit an emergency department, providing an important opportunity to deliver injury prevention services. We are encouraged by these results, which suggest that computer technology holds promise for efficiently delivering patient education in busy health care settings," said Allen R. Walker, co-author of the study and director of Emergency Medicine for the Children's Center.

Additional authors of the study are Lara B. McKenzie, Eileen M. McDonald, Mei-Cheng Wang, Yu-Jen Cheng, Nancy L. Weaver and Allen R. Walker. Weaver is with the St. Louis University School of Public Health, and McKenzie is with the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Columbus Children's Hospital.


Related Web site

The Center for Injury Research and Policy


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