With a Safe Environment, We Have Safe Kids
With a Safe Environment, We Have Safe Kids
by Jennifer LB Leese
Are the kids OK? For many parents this question lingers constantly just below the surface of their mind every moment they're awake. It often colors their nightmares and daydreams. The worry peaks when the kids are out of the house, whether they're playing in the yard, heading to school, or when they're at a friend's house.
Well, Parents, we aren't the only ones who worry about our children.
The National Safe Kids Campaign, now Safe Kids Worldwide, the first national organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury, was launched in 1988 to address what was then a little recognized problem--that more children under age 14 were being killed by what people call "accidents" (motor vehicle crashes, fires and other injuries) than by any other cause.
The Campaign's founders believe there is no such thing as an accident, and that unintentional injuries can be prevented. They enlisted the support of corporations, government agencies, and the health and safety community to reduce the incidence of childhood injury. Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D, came on board as chairman of the Campaign and Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore are honorary chairs.
More than 450 coalitions in 16 countries bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments, and volunteers to educate and protect families. The organization was founded in 1987 by Children's National Medical Center with support from Johnson & Johnson.
Safe Kids of Washington County is a local organization of Safe Kids Worldwide. "The coalition's goal is to reduce the number of children ages 14 and under who die from preventable, unintentional injuries such as motor vehicle and pedestrian injuries, bike crashes, fires and burns, drowning, poisonings, choking, unintentional shootings and falls," says Amanda Distefano, coalition coordinator of Safe Kids of Washington County. SKWC addresses issues such as car seat safety, pedestrian safety, water and pool safety, firearm safety, fire and burn safety, at home safety, Halloween safety, toy safety, poison safety, backyard and play ground safety, holiday safety, and bicycle safety.
Did you know that accidental injury is the number one killer of America's children, taking more lives than disease, violence, and suicide? Put simply...prevention is the cure.
Based on Washington County injury data and community needs assessments SKWC's current target areas of prevention include bicycle safety, child passenger safety, poison prevention, fire arm/gun safety, pedestrian safety, playground safety, and water safety. Some of the activities that address these issues include: bicycle rodeos, child safety seat inspections & installations, educational lectures, safety demonstrations, and health fair presentations, as well as monthly child safety seat inspections, bicycle safety days, and pedestrian safety presentations for all first graders in Washington County.
"We're only going to the grocery store around the corner."
"He stops crying when I hold him on my lap."
"She thinks she's too old for a car seat."
Do any of these sound familiar? They're all common reasons parents give for not putting their children in appropriate child safety seats or safety belts. Unfortunately, unrestrained or improperly restrained children are far more likely to be injured, to suffer more severe injuries, and to die in the event of a crash.
Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death. In 2001, 1,579 child occupants ages 14 and under died in motor vehicle crashes, and in 2002 an estimated 227,000 were injured. Even if you're a careful driver, you can't control other drivers' behavior or eliminate the possibility of a crash. You can, though, greatly reduce the risk that your children will be seriously injured or killed. "Maryland law requires that babies ride in a rear facing infant seat or convertible seat until they are at least a year old and at least 20 pounds. Toddlers must ride in a forward facing child safety seat until they weigh at least 40 pounds, and bigger kids need a booster seat until they are about 8 years old and five feet tall," says Amanda.
If you could make one place a safe haven for your children, where would it be? For many parents, the answer is their homes. Yet research shows more than 4.5 million children are injured in the home every year.
Taking simple prevention measures and closely supervising your children can help protect them from common household hazards, such as fires, burns, drowning, suffocation, choking, firearm injury, poisoning, and falls. A few easy, inexpensive steps include locking household cleaning materials in a cabinet out of reach, installing carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms, and blocking stairways with baby gates can greatly reduce your child's risk of injury in the home. "Rugs not being properly secured to the floor, window blind cords and other electrical cords which may cause a child to trip and fall, and toy or other items being let on the floor which present the risk of an unintentional injury," says Melissa Lewis, prevention program coordinator for Safe Kids Washington County.
You're a careful parent. You read the magazines and brochures your pediatrician recommends. You buckle your children up in the car, strap their helmets on when they ride their bikes and watch them around water. Still, sometimes you get a sneaking suspicion that there's something you're missing that dangers lurk where you least expect them.
Serious injuries can result from seemingly innocent objects or occur where even careful parents might not think to childproof. Believe it or not, each year thousands of children are hurt by shopping carts, fireworks, and bunk beds. Children can suffer severe injury or die in only minutes when trapped in a hot vehicle or trunk.
Most pedestrian related injuries occur at dusk when drivers may have a hard time seeing children who are not walking with an adult or wearing reflect gear or bright clothing.
Safe Kids Washington County has educated thousands of parents on how to better protect their children from unintentional injuries. "We have provided the community with safety devices such as car safety seats, bicycles and bicycle helmets, outlet covers, gun locks, and Mr. Yuck stickers (just to name a few)." The coalition has also provided the community with numerous educational materials related to each of the risk areas. Because of efforts like these, as well as support from Safe Kids Worldwide, local coalitions in the United States have been able to reduced the number of injury related deaths among children ages 14 and under by 45 percent.
Monetary donations are used to purchase educational materials, car seats and booster seats for children, bicycles and bicycle helmets, or any other safety devises needed. Monetary donations may also be used to send coalition members to training classes related to unintentional injury.
"We are a non-profit coalition-all grants, monetary donations, or product donations are used through out the community to protect the children of Washington County and reduce the risk of unintentional injury." To donate, use the contact information below.
Safe Kids Washington County offers a wide variety of programming. Services provided are free of charge to schools, daycares, community groups, and other interested individuals. The goal of these programs is to increase public awareness of the danger of accidental injuries, so that the proper precautions can be taken to prevent the injuries from occurring. Interested individuals may call 240-313-3397 for more information. These classes/services are provided as deemed needed or upon request please feel free to call if you are interested in a specific risk area.
"We are always searching for new members to help strengthen our coalition. The success of our coalition in reaching its goals relies heavily on our volunteers. Anyone interested in joining the coalition should contact SKWC to find out more information," said Amanda.
If you would like to become a Safe Kids Washington County member, committing to the safety of children in Washington County, use the contact information below.
"We are available to provide you with valuable information and to answer any question you may have concerning the safety of your child. Please feel free to call us."
Safe Kids Washington County is proudly sponsored by the Washington County Health Department. The Health Department acts as the lead agency for SKWC.
To find out more about Safe Kids Washington County, call 240-313-3360 or 240-313-3357 and ask for Amanda Distefano (coalition coordinator), Jackie Willison (coalition co-coordinator), or Melissa Lewis (prevention program coordinator).
Safe Kids Washington County is located at 1302 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hagerstown.