Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009


Global health experts agonize over the terrible toll disease takes on the world's children, but a lot less attention is paid to how many kids' lives are claimed by accidents and injuries. Part of that is a numbers game: close to 10 million children under 5 die annually of disease. Comparatively few — 829,000 per year — die because of accidents. Still, that's 2,270 children every day. In late 2008 the World Health Organization issued its first annual report on the problem, listing the top five killers and what can be done to combat them:

Traffic injuries: 260,000 deaths per year. In the developed world, most victims are passengers in vehicles; in the developing world, most are pedestrians or bicyclists. The solutions include seat-belt laws, speed limits and stiffer drunk-driving penalties. The key is imposing and enforcing the rules.

Drownings: 175,000 deaths per year. Parental supervision, CPR education and fenced swimming pools are crucial.

Burns: 96,000 deaths per year. Infants are at greatest risk. The danger is lowest for kids ages 10 to 14 and rises for 15-to-19-year-olds — perhaps because of access to fireworks and gasoline. Smoke alarms, parental policing, childproof lighters and burn centers all reduce risk.

Falls: 47,000 deaths per year. Caregiver stress or inattention, nonchildproof environments and low levels of maternal education are risk factors. Solutions include redesigned playgrounds and furniture, parental-education programs and window guards.

Poisonings: 45,000 deaths per year. Kids under 1 are in the most danger. Child-resistant packaging and measures like removing poisons from the house or keeping them locked up can help.