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Passive Injury Prevention Strategies Credited with Decrease in Baby Walker-Related Injuries

Product Redesign Has Effectively Prevented Injury, Study Finds


COLUMBUS, OH - 3/6/2006

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE:
March 6, 2006

Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital have shown that mobile infant walker-related injuries decreased 76% between 1990 and 2001, thanks to the use of passive injury prevention strategies, such as baby walker redesign and the development of stationary activity centers.  Passive prevention strategies are those that do not require action by an individual for protection to occur; individuals are automatically protected, and even sometimes without their awareness.  These results demonstrate the effectiveness of passive prevention in controlling public health problems, and support the infant walker example as a model for other injury prevention efforts.

A retrospective analysis of data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for infants younger than 15 months was undertaken from 1990 through 2001.  The study shows that infant walker-related injuries decreased 76% between those years—from 20,900 injuries in 1990, to 5,100 in 2001.  This 76% decrease can be attributed to the introduction of stationary activity centers in 1994 and revised industry safety standards for infant walkers in 1997.  Trauma to the head region occurred in 91% of cases.  Skull fractures were the most common (62%) type of fracture.  Falls down stairs was the mechanism of injury in 74% of cases.  The study also found that 99 % of all infant walker-related injuries happened at home.

The study indicated that despite the decrease in injuries, infant walker-related injuries are still occurring.  Because safer alternatives to mobile infant walkers, such as stationary activity centers, are readily available and can provide many of the same benefits that parents perceive infant walkers to provide, the study recommends that all mobile infant walkers be banned in the United States, as they have been in Canada. 

“The rapid decline in baby walker related injuries represents an important success story that can offer a lesson in other types of injury prevention,” said Brenda Shields, M.S., research coordinator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital.  “By redesigning current products, we can begin to reduce other injury problems.”

Results of this study show that the passive protection created by the introduction of stationary activity centers and a change in infant walker design standards was highly effective in reducing infant walker-related injuries.  This success mirrors achievements in control of other public health problems, such as infectious diseases.  For example, infectious diarrheal diseases were virtually eliminated by taking the responsibility for creating clean water out of the users’ hands, and instead, developing potable water and sewer systems.  This same model can be used when approaching other public health problems, such as injury.

“Too often, what has been learned over the past 150 years about the control of other public health problems, like infectious diseases, is ignored when implementing current injury prevention strategies,” said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health.  “Instead of expecting parents to continuously supervise their children, which is not realistic for the best parents in the World, we should focus on implementation of passive protection measures that automatically protect children by designing the threat of injury out of the child’s environment.”

Columbus Children’s Hospital is a 113-year-old pediatric healthcare network which houses the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. Columbus Children’s Research Institute (CCRI) at Columbus Children's Hospital ranks among the top ten in National Institutes of Health research awards to freestanding children’s hospitals in the United States.  CCRI has nearly 300,000 square feet of dedicated research space and is organized into 11 research Centers of Emphasis encompassing gene therapy; molecular and human genetics; vaccines and immunity; childhood cancer; cell and vascular biology; developmental pharmacology and toxicology; injury research and policy; microbial pathogenesis; cardiovascular medicine; innovation in pediatric practice and biobehavioral health.  More information is available by calling (614) 722-KIDS or through http://www.columbuschildrens.com/.

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