A steady improvement in the rate of unintentional fatal injuries among children up to age 4 among all racial groupsa roughly 80 percent drop since the 1980swas credited to more extensive use of safety measures such as car seats, smoke detectors and childproof caps on medicines and household products, the study said.
However, there was a “troubling trend showing increases in recent poisoning deaths in Hispanic and black children,” lead study author Joyce Pressley wrote in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Safety improvements, which included better hospital care of accident victims, likely have been implemented unevenly as well, she said. For instance, there has been a sharper decline in death rates among white children since the 1980s in such categories as motor vehicle accidents and drownings.
Overall, nearly 18 per 100,000 young children died from injuries in 2003, the latest year for which government data was available, the study said.
American Indian and Alaskan native children had the highest rates of death from injury at a combined 37 per 100,000, compared to blacks at 30 per 100,000 and whites at 16 per 100,000, it said.
Suffocation was the leading cause of fatal injuries in 2003 at 22 percent of the deaths, while motor vehicle accidents accounted for 18 percent, drownings 15 percent, fire 7 percent, and poisonings, falls and firearms each roughly 2 percent.
Of the 56 firearm deaths examined, 83 percent occurred among minorities and half of those killed young black children, the study said. Overall, firearm deaths among young children declined by more than 90 percent over the study period.
Pressley called for targeting high-risk populations with injury-prevention counseling and urged nonsmoking campaigns to deter fires and burns.
[Editors N ote: “Twenty-Year Trends in Fatal Injuries to Very Young Children: The Persistence of Racial Disparities,” by Joyce C. Pressley, PhD, MPH, Barbara Barlow, MD, Tiffany Kendig, MSPT and Rachel Paneth-Pollak, MPHb, can be read here.]