Keeping children safe: Rethinking design

Oct 05, 2009

Injury is the leading cause of death for children over the age of 1 in industrialized countries and improving the safety of the manmade (built) environment will benefit children's health, according to an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Injury accounts for about 40% of childhood deaths in industrialized countries and is even higher in developing countries. It often involves failure to negotiate a manmade environment. Death rates from injury in affluent countries is 15.3 per 100,000 boys and 10 per 100,000 for girls among children 14 and younger. In developing countries, the rates are 50.5 per 100,000 boys and 43.5 per 100,000 girls.

In 2002, 371,000 boys and 289,000 girls worldwide died of injury, with more than 180,000 - mostly pedestrians - killed by traffic.

In addition to causing injury and death, unsafe environments are barriers to physical activity that is important to life long health. Changes such as speed control, traffic light phasing, fencing spaces and enhancing pedestrian visibility can reduce injuries by 50 to 75% in specific locations and 25% in wider areas. By making traffic safer for children, it increases the likelihood they will walk to school and can derive health benefits from physical activity. In fact, 50% of Canadian children never walk to school compared with only 17% who do most of the time.

"By giving priority to automotive over pedestrian transportation we have allowed road traffic to become the leading cause of death among our children," writes Dr. Andrew Howard of the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). "North American children are increasingly sedentary," and urban sprawl is linked to higher rates of traffic injury and obesity.

Other ways to modify the built environment include appropriate playground equipment that minimizes injuries while encouraging activity. Falls from climbing equipment are 5 times more likely to result in severe fractures than falls from a standing height. Evidence shows that playgrounds that did not comply with standards from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) had twice the rate of injury of compliant playgrounds, although these standards are voluntary without regulatory authority for most Canadian playgrounds.

Fencing around pools to limit deaths from drowning and modification of homes and apartments to prevent falls from windows are other examples of changes to physical surroundings that can save children's lives.

"Our built environment influences our children's levels of activity, their physical health and their risk for ," writes Dr. Howard. "Intelligent planning, particularly with consideration for urban design and traffic engineering to emphasize safe walking and cycling, has enormous potential to improve the health and safety of now and across the lifespan."

More information: http://www.cmaj.ca/press/cmaj080162.pdf

Source: (news : web)

Explore further: Instant noodles carry health risks for women: study

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Traffic injuries are major African problem

Jun 26, 2007

A French study has found Africa's traffic death rate is higher than in any other region of the world, yet research into improving road safety is lacking.

1st US study -- gymnastics lands thousands in ER

Apr 04, 2008

More than 600,000 children participate in school-sponsored and club-level gymnastics competitions annually in the United States. Yet gymnastics continues to be overlooked in terms of potential for injury, while having one ...

Recommended for you

With kids in school, parents can work out

8 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Back-to-school time provides an opportunity for parents to develop an exercise plan that fits into the family schedules, an expert suggests.

Obama offers new accommodations on birth control

12 hours ago

The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance ...

Use a rule of thumb to control how much you drink

12 hours ago

Sticking to a general rule of pouring just a half glass of wine limits the likelihood of overconsumption, even for men with a higher body mass index. That's the finding of a new Iowa State and Cornell University ...

User comments : 0