National Injury Prevention Day lit the town in a green glow
Last night, KC went green in support of bringing attention (and loved) to the thrust of preventing childhood injuries.
Injuries are the leading cause of death for children 1 to 18 years old. Each day, 20 children will die from what we call “accidents” and the medical professionals of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids call a “preventable injury”. These preventable injuries are the leading cause of death in children, resulting in more deaths than all other diseases combined. So on Wednesday, November 18th they sponsored the inaugural National Injury Prevention Day. To mark the occasion, the coalition sponsored community activities, and several city landmarks were lit green as the sun went down.
The Injury Free Coalition for Kids is a not-for-profit whose members are comprised of doctors, nurses, and hospital community outreach personnel from over 35 national Level I Trauma Centers. Their goal is reducing childhood preventable accidents within their individual communities through hospital-based, community-oriented injury prevention programs.
The group was founded in New York City by Dr. Barbara Barlow who noticed a high number of child deaths from falling off buildings coming into her hospital. Using old school push pins and wall maps, she began identifying the location of each death. Eventually, she noticed that the majority of these deaths happened in certain neighborhoods. So she went to those neighborhoods and began talking to the residents. What she discovered was that the kids were playing on the roofs because there was nowhere else to play. The next step for Dr. Barlow was to fundraise and organize a community built, safe playground to give neighborhood kids a better place to play than on the roof. Says Dr. Barlow, “The doctors, the nurses and the social workers and the injury prevention people have to learn to walk outside the walls of their hospital, know their communities, and help their communities solve their health problems.”
That simple statement became the philosophy that guides their work. They focus on local community research, education, and advocacy. Each site nationwide looks at different problems that affect their individual communities driven by numbers based research. They often partner with other community resources such as police and fire departments to educate the community on specific dangers and how to reduce their risk.
In Kansas City, they are based out of Children’s Mercy Hospital. Phyllis Larimore, RN is a Children’s Mercy Nursing Program Coordinator who explained the scope of the local chapter’s efforts. Through research with the health department, they have identified the area of the city with the most injuries and fatalities. Bounded on the north by the Missouri River and the south by 73rd Street, the area between I-70 and Paseo is one of their prime focus areas. The biggest problem she explained is people often don’t recognize the danger and if even if they do, there are often economic barriers to removing the danger. Yes, you know it is dangerous to take your baby in a car without a car seat but if your choice is between buying formula or a car seat…you have a problem that risks your child’s life regardless of your choice.
The local organization focuses on four main areas. First is motor vehicle safety. They assess each patient they see at the hospital and part of that assessment is to ensure that the child has an appropriate car seat. If they don’t, the coalition will supply one. They also help with bus and ambulance safety, car seats for special needs children. They work with their community partners, Bike Walk KC to teach bike safety in area schools.
Infant suffocation is the second area of focus for the KC coalition. Again, during a hospital visit, hospital workers ask about the sleeping area for the child and if there is no crib, one is provided.
They also work to reduce the incidence of suicide by drugs or firearms. They do this by providing free prescription lock boxes to prevent children from accessing potentially lethal medications. They also provide free trigger locks for guns. Simply walk up to the security desk at Children’s Mercy and ask for one. They will give it to you with no questions asked.
They also do community outreach and education with the Kansas City Fire Department providing free smoke detectors and fire extinguishers to families.
To celebrate the first annual National Injury Prevention Day a Twitter Q&A was held and Head Start parents spent the afternoon at Charlie’s House, a child safety house exhibit located on Hospital Hill. There they toured the home learning about all the hidden dangers that exist for children in your own home. Named after Charlie Horn, a local 2-year-old who died when a 30-inch dresser fell on him, this interactive exhibit’s mission is educating parents on how to keep their kids safe in their own home. And as the day ended, City Hall, both campuses of Children’s Mercy, Sporting KC, and Charlie’s House all were lit in green.
To learn more about the work of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids or to seek their assistance, you can visit their website.