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Child injury prevention plan hampered by poverty

Update: October, 02/2013 - 07:00

Minh Thi

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A majority of child injuries occur in low and middle-income countries, meaning more effort must be given to cope with the issues in this area, a recent conference on child injury prevention was told in Columbus, Ohio, the US.

The two-day conference, which was organised by the Centre for Injury Research and Policy under the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, brought together approximately 100 international participants, including pediatricians, medical researchers and health-related professionals around the globe.

It discussed the existing challenges to child injury prevention work and the lessons learned, with focus on the case studies of low- and middle-income countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Bangladesh.

According to Dr David Meddings, a health specialist from the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability under the World Health Organisation, 95 per cent of all child injury-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The leading causes of unintentional injuries are road traffic injuries, drowning, burns, falls and poisoning, he added.

Jonathan Guevarra, assistant professor from the Department of Health Promotion and Education under the University of the Philippines (Manila), said the drowning rate in low- and middle-income countries is six times higher than in high income countries, with rates of 7.8 per 100,000 and 1.2 per 100,000 respectively.

In the Philippines, a country surrounded by water, drowning remains the leading cause of fatal injuries, added Guevarra.

He attributed the situation to the absence of child safety measures, inadequate child supervision and the lack of drowning prevention activities within the community.

In an attempt to cope with the problem, the Philippines has formed Drowning Prevention Committees in villages, conducted community education sessions and training, performed safety reconstruction, covering wells and promoting the erection of barriers in houses.

In order for these attempts to be successful, Guevarra stressed the importance of community engagement, which was also repeated by many other health experts while addressing injury prevention work in their own countries.

Totulope Olufunlayo, senior lecturer from the Department of Community Health and Primary Care at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, also stressed the need to forge community co-operation, as she pointed out that a major problem facing the child restraint programme in Nigeria is the lack of awareness among parents.

Olufunlayo said the use of child restraints in cars was not seen as culturally acceptable in Nigeria by some, so it was important to firstly change parents' attitude towards the safety measure so that they can start taking actions.

While there seems to be a long way to go for developing countries, Dr Meddings stressed that preventing child injury is possible, even without incurring huge costs.

He cited the example of how the trends of child injuries in Sweden had seen significant declines during 1969-99 thanks to multi-sectoral actions. These include environmental planning, in which traffic was diverted away from residential areas so that children could walk to school and play safely; water safety interventions to prevent drowning, safety measures taken by parents at home, home visits by health professionals, traffic safety measures such as helmets and restraints.

He stressed that these interventions could be achieved through inexpensive and accessible means, while costs were distributed across sectors other than health.

Dr Gary Smith, president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance based in Columbus, said the alliance is developing a global injury prevention network (GIPN) aimed at promoting skills development through information exchanges.

The network, in other words, is a global organisation-to-organisation mentoring programme that promotes online communication and mentoring between health-related organizations, with focus on less experienced organizations from low and middle-income countries.

The GIPN will match less experienced organisations with more experienced organisations and matching will be based on the strengths and needs of both parties as well as their shared interests.

Mentoring will be conducted via low-cost means such as email, social media channels, Skype and telephone.

Smith said so far 26 organisations from 14 countries from different regions around the globe have applied to participate in the network.

NGOs, academic VIP research and prevention centres, governmental organisations and agencies working in injury prevention around the world are welcome to apply for the mentorship programme, added Smith. — VNS

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