Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 31, 1997

On Medicine:
Child Safety
Center To Help
Parents Protect
Their Kids

Randolph Fillmore
Contributing Writer

Last year in the United States, almost 4,000 children under the age of 5 died from injuries. An additional four million preschool-age children suffered nonfatal injuries. While automobile accidents and playground injuries accounted for many of these injuries, many other fatal and non-fatal injuries to children occur in the home where danger lurks around electrical outlets, on staircases, in bathroom medicine chests, in cleaning supplies and kitchen appliances.

To raise awareness, teach safety and provide the supplies parents need to make their homes safer, The Hopkins Child Safety Center opened on March 27. The Child Safety Center provides a display of home hazards and safety measures for parents and children to learn about poison hazards, find out how to reduce the temperature on hot water heaters and see a wide range of latches and other door and cabinet safety devices. The Child Safety Center, a cooperative project between the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health, stocks the materials and supplies parents will need to make their homes safer for children. These items will be sold to parents at cost.

"Parents get lots of messages about the importance of smoke detectors and stair gates," said Andrea Gielen of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study that resulted in funding for the center. "But we'd like to make it easier to carry out safety practices by making the supplies available to parents when they bring their children to see the pediatrician."

To drive home the safety message, the Children's Safety Center uses displays that depict danger areas and explains safety measures through demonstrations of the practices and supplies.

"I think the Child Safety Center is a wonderful way to help parents achieve home safety," said Modena Wilson, professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the child safety project. "We know that house fires, followed by falls and poisonings, are the leading cause of death for children in Baltimore. In addition to advice, we needed to supply parents with very specific education as well as the devices that will make homes safer."

"The center will be open to patients, staff and visitors and anyone who comes into the hospital between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday," said Gielen. "When parents take their children to the pediatrician, who will counsel them about safety, the doctor can then recommend they visit the center, see Monica Davis, the health educator, and get the supplies they need."

Jean Ogborn, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, said the hospital sees approximately 6,000 children each year for "minor injuries," many of which occur in the home. "These injuries are minor in the sense that children are not killed or hospitalized, but they may have residual scars or require more than three medical visits for the injury," Ogborn said. "Every year we receive more than 1,000 children who are victims of major trauma. Some of the major trauma could be prevented by the correct use of smoke detectors, window guards and other devices available at the Center," she added.

Recent data gathered for the Pediatric Trauma Team registry shows injury from falls (229) responsible for a large portion of child injuries seen in the hospital ER in 1996. Only automobile accidents (251) injured more children in 1996. In a typical year, the registry reports a variety of pediatric injury cases, including almost 2,000 laceration cases, more than 1,000 puncture wounds and approximately 500 "closed head wounds" from falls. Injuries to children account for 22 percent of the total trauma "business" at the hospital.

The Hopkins Child Safety Center grew out of the center's research into the causes of child injury. It is expected that the center will serve 10,000 visitors annually.

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