Injuries have overtaken infectious disease as the leading cause of death for children worldwide, and psychologists have the research needed to help predict and prevent deadly childhood mishaps, according to a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
“Many different factors contribute to unintentional injuries, so if we are able to stop just one of these risk factors, the injury could be prevented,” said David C. Schwebel, PhD, of the University of Alabama Birmingham, who presented at the meeting. “By using novel behavioral strategies, we can possibly prevent injuries that have previously been seen as unavoidable accidents.”
Injuries were responsible for the deaths of over 11,000 and emergency room visits by more than 6.7 million American children in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Global Burden of Disease project estimates that more than 2 million children under age 19 worldwide died as a result of injuries in 2017. While these numbers represent all injuries, the presentation focused on only unintentional injuries (i.e., accidents) instead of intentional injuries such as suicide, homicide and abuse.
Schwebel outlined a model that psychologists could use to reduce accidental injuries in children. The model groups risk factors in three categories: environment-based, caregiver-based and child-based factors. Each category contributes in some form to almost every incident, according to Schwebel, and preventing just one risk factor could stop an injury from occurring.
Environment-based factors can include many different aspects of the environment with which children interact. For example, children could choke on toys if they are not designed well or be harmed in a car accident due to an incorrectly installed car seat.