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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 05/03/10
Media Contact: Nick Miller, 513-803-6035
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Home Safety Equipment Reduces Modifiable Injuries by 70 Percent

A comprehensive effort to install safety devices in the homes of hundreds of infants and young children reduced modifiable injuries by 70 percent, most of which involved falls from stairways, according to a new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study.

"Injuries are the leading causes of death after the first year of life, and for young children, the majority of injuries occur in the home environment,” said Kieran.J. Phelan, MD, a physician and researcher in the division of Health Policy and Clinical Effectiveness at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author of the study. "Parents need to understand how to identify hazards and properly install safety equipment at home, and they need to be able to obtain home safety products that are effective and durable.” Phelan is also an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Phelan will present his study at 11 a.m. ET Monday, May 3, at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, Canada.

Although most injury prevention studies aim to educate parents about safety equipment, and some provide free or reduced-cost equipment, the current study focused on the impact of proper equipment installation. This study is the first to look at the effect of equipment installation on injury reduction.

"Though educating parents is a good idea, we’ve learned education alone may not reduce injuries,” Phelan explained. "Many parents may not be aware of the hazards in their home. Furthermore, even after they’ve been educated and provided with coupons or devices, they still may not have the resources to obtain and properly install the needed safety equipment.”

This may be especially true for families from lower socio-economic or impoverished households, he said.

The study involved 355 homes of expectant mothers who lived in the Greater Cincinnati area and included households from urban, suburban, and rural areas. Phelan and his colleagues enrolled mothers prior to the birth of their children and followed these families until their children were 3-years-old.

Researchers used the Home Observations and Measures of the Environment (HOME) assessment system in their analysis. In about half the homes, technicians installed safety equipment in five high-exposure, high-risk areas: the kitchen, the main activity room (where TV and toys are kept), the child’s bedroom, the child’s bathroom and stairways. In the other homes, a one page handout on safety advice, but no safety equipment, was provided. Safety devices included gates at the top of stairs, covers on stove tops and electrical outlets and cabinet locks.

"The results of this study show that pediatricians and home safety experts need to work with federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD,) to implement programs that ensure homes are safe for children and equipment is properly installed
and functioning,” Phelan said.

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