MONDAY, April 2, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Despite years of largely successful public campaigns to reduce the number of deadly childhood accidents, new research suggests those efforts haven't had the desired effect for black or American Indian/Alaskan Native children.
Statistics from 2003 show that young black children were 63 percent more likely to die from an unintentional injury than white children, and young American Indian and Alaskan Native children were more than two times more likely to die.
"The message is that we've come a long way, but there is a still a lot of room for improvement," said study lead author Joyce C. Pressley, assistant professor of epidemiology, health policy and management at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
Pressley and her colleagues did the study to see how national prevention campaigns -- including those pushing bicycle helmets, automobile child safety seats and education programs for parents -- are reaching different racial and ethnic groups.
"We can show in individual studies, in small, single communities, that these approaches work," she said of previous research. "The question is whether they're being disseminated widely to all populations. The only way to really figure that out is to look at national data."
The researchers examined national statistics from 1981 to 2003 on fatal injuries among children, from birth to 4 years old, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The rate of unintentional fatal injuries declined among all racial and ethnic groups -- blacks, whites, American Indians/Alaskan Natives and Asian/Pacific Islanders -- during the time period reviewed. Injury rates among Hispanics went down, too, during much of that period, but they weren't tracked separately until 1990.
By 2003, however, the overall fatal injury rate among white children was 16.0 per 100,000, compared to a low of 7.9 among Asian/Pacific Islanders, and a high of 37.2 among American Indians/Alaskan natives. The rate among blacks was 30, and Hispanics, 14.8.
According to the study, young black children are at higher risk than whites of dying from burns, some types of car accidents and firearm-related incidents. In fact, young black and American Indian/Alaskan Native children are three times more likely than white children to be killed by a gun, the researchers said.
On the other hand, there was less disparity between the numbers of white children and black or American Indian/Alaskan Native children who died from residential fires, pedestrian accidents and poisonings.
The findings are published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Why are black and American Indian/Alaskan Native children at higher risk overall? The study did not look at income levels. But, the injury-prone groups "may live in environments where exposure to potential injuries is increased -- no safe area to play, no smoke detectors in homes, poor housing stock," said Dr. Michael J. Mello, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital, in Providence.
"They may have also not received injury-prevention messages," he said. "Injury-prevention messages must be delivered in a culturally tailored format to be understood and adopted by all groups. We have many evidence-based injury-prevention strategies, but we need to research how to translate them to be adopted, implemented, and maintained in all of our communities."
Pressley said smoke alarms and detectors are one strategy to be pursued. And she thinks more could be done to make child-restraint systems and booster seats in automobiles available to low-income families. Gun control and increased awareness of firearm safety are also issues, she said.
Learn more about childhood injuries from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.