September is Baby Safety Awareness Month – Part I

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Child mortality rates in the U.S. are inexplicably high but campaigns such as Baby Safety Awareness Month can do a lot to help change that.

This is the first part of a two-article series designed to raise awareness of child safety and child injury prevention issues. For the second part, click here.

Reducing child mortality rates is arguably one of the greatest advancements of the modern world. Up until relatively recent times, child mortality remained a pressing social issue, with death rates soaring even in what are now considered developed countries. For example, in 19th century Germany, every second child died. The 20th century has seen a marked improvement in that regard; global child mortality rates fell from 18.2% in 1960 to 4.3% in 2015. Of course, even that rate – which translates into 43 deaths for every 1,000 children – still seems unacceptable. Nevertheless, thanks to a global decline in poverty and the spread of healthcare services, substantial progress has been made.

The United States has long been one of the world leaders in technical and scientific progress. Being one of the wealthiest and most developed countries on the globe, one might think that the U.S. would have one of the lowest child mortality rates in the world. Sadly, the reality is markedly different. In a report published in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. ranks 27th out of the 34 developed countries that constitute the Organization for Economic Cooperation. Worldwide, the U.S. is classified just above Serbia but below countries such as Bosnia, Herzegovina, Latvia, and Poland.

The reasons behind these troubling statistics are complex and not clearly understood. The New York Times reported last year that while neonatal mortality rates – that is, deaths of children younger than one month – are low in the U.S., the numbers go up significantly for children who enter postneonatal period – from 1 to 12 months old. Deaths in this period of a child’s development are attributed in large part to accidents.

Of course, parents will do everything that lies in their power to nurture, cherish and protect their children. Still, the dangers to life, health and the safe development of a child that hide in our modern world are as numerous as the developments that can make a child’s life safer and happier. Try as they might, even the most informed parents may still miss some hidden risks their child might be exposed to. This is why awareness-raising campaigns such as “Baby Safety Awareness Month” are instrumental in helping parents keep all potential dangers to their children’s safety at bay.

“Baby Safety Awareness Month” is an annual, month-long event dating back to 1991 and sponsored by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). JPMA brings together approximately 250 manufacturers of the prenatal to preschool products that make up 95% of the U.S. child-care merchandise market. As stated by the organization itself, the event aims at raising “consumer awareness of safety issues and the safe selection and use of baby products”. The focus of the campaign chosen by the organization for this year is the importance of using straps on all juvenile products.

Marasco & Nesselbush personal injury attorneys care deeply about the safety and welfare of children in our state and in the U.S. as a whole. That is why we decided to show our appreciation and support for the campaign and dedicate this and the following blog to the issue of child safety.

Strap in for Safety

 According to JPMA, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal, unintentional injuries for all young children, with approximately 8,000 kids treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. for fall-related injuries each day (). Other sources report that more than 80% of slip and fall injuries involving children aged four and under happen in the home. Even though a fall may seem like a mundane and commonplace incident, it can have dramatic consequences on a child’s welfare. For example, in the age group 0 to 14 years old, falls are responsible for 50% of traumatic brain injuries. It is therefore evident that parents should treat the risk of a slip and fall accident and its consequences as a major safety concern. What can be done to prevent such accidents?

JPMA states that there is no better way to prevent any kind of accident or injury than direct supervision. Parents, then, should always be attentive to what their child is doing at any given moment and, as JPMA advises, “watch, listen and stay close to [your] child”. Of course, children’s natural agility and a drive to vigorously explore the world around them may make it difficult for even the most attentive of parents to prevent all accidents. That is why JPMA also advises parents to use child safety devices – like belts, straps, or harnesses – whenever possible. For example, the organization cautions that at mealtimes, whenever a child sits in the high chair, he or she should be protected from falling by comfortable yet well-fitted safety straps. The straps should be well-secured to prevent the child from wriggling around in the chair.

Similar measures can be adopted for a variety of other activities. When changing a child’s diaper on a changing table, straps can be used to prevent the child from rolling off the pad. If a child likes being rocked in a swing or a bouncer seat, parents need to make sure to always buckle them up. JPMA advises parents to use a three- or five-point harness to keep the baby as secure as possible. While on the go, in a stroller or a carrier, children should be secured with a standard safety harness that those baby transport devices usually come fitted with. This will not only prevent a child from climbing out of the seat and falling but also will protect them from potentially serious injuries should the stroller tip over.

In the next article in this series, we will consider what common dangers can hide in the one place children should feel the safest – the home. We will also analyze what a defective product is and what parents can do if their child was injured or suffered medical damage in connection with a product that had a design or manufacturing flaw.