Grant Will Help Coalition Prevent Kids' Injuries Due to Falls from Windows and Playground Equipment

11/06/03    Portland, Ore.

Grant Will Help Coalition Prevent Kids' Injuries Due to Falls from Windows, Playground Equipment.

Oregon Health & Science University and Doernbecher Children's Hospital will develop a local community alliance to focus on lowering the incidence of childhood injuries due to falls from windows and at playgrounds.

OHSU and Doernbecher will use a three-year, $161,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to replicate the foundation's national Injury Free Coalition for Kids in Aloha and North Portland. The program is based on the Model for Injury Prevention developed by the Harlem Hospital Injury Prevention Program.

The effort is being administered through OHSU's Department of Emergency Medicine, with Think First Oregon, a 17-year-old, OHSU-based non-profit organization that works to reduce the incidence of brain and spinal cord injuries and fatalities in Oregon, serving as a major partner.

Think First Oregon provides age-appropriate injury prevention education to youth in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The goal of the Portland Injury Free Coalition for Kids will be to reduce the incidence of injuries due to falls among children ages 14 and younger. Its implementation begins immediately and runs through Oct. 31, 2006.

And not a moment too soon. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services' Oregon Trauma Registry, falls from buildings and at playgrounds in the Portland-metro area account for 37.5 percent of injuries among children ages 1 to 4, and playground falls cause 33 percent of injuries for those ages 5 to 10. Among 11- to 14-year-olds, falls cause 10 percent of injuries.

"Our participating age group is 1 to 14 years old. For that group, falls are the No. 1 cause of injury that requires hospitalization," said Craig Warden, M.D., M.P.H., medical director for Pediatric Emergency Medicine and assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at OHSU. He also is principal investigator for the project.

He said falls are the No. 4 cause of death among children in the targeted age group.

Among children ages 1 to 4, the highest number of falls requiring hospitalization - 20 percent - are from buildings. The second highest, 17.5 percent, occur at playgrounds. For children ages 5 to 10, the highest incidence of falls is at playgrounds, amounting to 33.3 percent of falls, according to the registry.

"Falling from a height presumed to be from a window and falling at a playground - these are two focus areas as far as causes of falls," Warden said. Most of the falls involve head injuries that "might not kill you, but could leave you disabled."

The Portland coalition will work with community members to identify public parks and school grounds in North Portland that need playground improvements.

Rae I. Rosenberg, program coordinator for Think First Oregon and the Portland Injury Free Coalition for Kids, said infrastructure improvements are just as important as education. This may include replacing playground equipment and upgrading ground cover under the structures.

"We're exploring ways to make the playgrounds safer from the ground up," Rosenberg said.

Helping parents make their homes safer for children, such as by keeping chairs, coffee tables and other furniture away from windows, will be an emphasis in Aloha. "The general issue is always supervision," Warden said. "The hope is that we can actually show concrete examples of how to prevent some of these injuries."

The Portland Injury Free Coalition for Kids will consist of representatives of the Department of Emergency Medicine at OHSU, Think First Oregon, the Oregon Department of Human Services, the Oregon Pediatric Society, Portland Parks & Recreation, county health departments and school districts, as well as teachers, parents, business owners and local fire officials.

The coalition will work with Caring Community of North Portland, the Portland Fire & Rescue, which has a comprehensive data collection system for injury location and causes, and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, for which Warden serves as a medical director.

"I'd like to see the community organize and feel empowered to take on issues that are important to them, especially injury and death issues and, obviously, I'd like the rate of death to decrease," Rosenberg said. "I'd like to see the community take the lead and make changes in their environment, and for other communities to follow suit."

Another of the grant's aims is "to show the community can come together, address the issue, mitigate it," Warden said.

Warden is applying for a grant from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to establish an injury prevention center for children at OHSU and work closely with the Oregon Department of Human Services on its operation.

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