NYC Child Death Rate Is Lower Than National Average

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

New data from the Health Department show that the death rate among children in New York City is more than one third lower than the national average. Between 2001 and 2007, the rate of child deaths was 15 per 100,000 children aged 1 to 12 years, compared to a national average of 20 deaths per 100,000. Most of this difference is due to fewer child injury deaths in New York City, especially motor vehicle-related injuries and homicides. In New York City, motor vehicle-related child deaths were less than half the national average (1.3 deaths per 100,000 in New York City versus 3.5 per 100,000 nationally). Homicide rates were also 30% lower than the national rate (1 death per 100,000 vs. 1.3 deaths per 100,000). Most fatal child injuries are unintentional and happen in the home.

The Health Department's 2009 Report from the Child Fatality Review Team (PDF) provides both an overview of child injury deaths and an in-depth look at fatal unintentional injuries sustained in the home. Of the 1,365 child deaths recorded between 2001 and 2007, 28% (388) resulted from injuries — and two-thirds (68%) were unintentional. More than half of children's fatal unintentional injuries (55%) occurred in the home, and 43% were caused by motor vehicles. Trends in New York City child injury deaths have remained relatively stable for the past seven years, with no sign of decrease.

"New York City is a remarkably safe place to grow up," said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, "but these findings remind us how much safer it could be. Children shouldn't die of preventable causes. Through collective and individual action, we can all help forestall these tragedies."

Homes Represent the Most Common Setting for Unintentional Child Injuries

Fatal household injuries are not distributed evenly throughout New York City. Low-income neighborhoods house 28% of the city's children, but they experienced 39% of the accidental household deaths. The most common causes included fire or scald burns (51%), falling or being struck by a falling object (20%), asphyxia (15%), drowning (6%), and poisoning (3%).

Most of the burn deaths stemmed from children playing with fire and other risky behavior among household members. Fatal falls typically involved windows where child guards were missing or improperly installed, though fall deaths also occurred among children playing on rooftops and in elevator shafts. Other children died after being struck by televisions and other heavy objects that fell from unstable surfaces, by choking on food or foreign objects, or by suffocating in shared beds or soft bedding. The list of fatal household injuries also includes drowning in bathtubs or above-ground swimming pools, poisoning from carbon monoxide and other toxic substances, misuse of medications, an accidental stabbing and gunshot wounds.

Injury Disparities

The report showed stark socioeconomic disparities in injury death. Between 2001 and 2007, 218 boys and 170 girls (4.6 versus 3.8 per 100,000) died from fatal injuries. The rate of injury death among black, non-Hispanic children (6.6 per 100,000) was 80% higher than the rate among white, non-Hispanic children (3.6 per 100,000), and more than twice the rate among Hispanic children (3.2 per 100,000). Asian and Pacific Island children had the city's lowest injury death rate (2.3 deaths per 100,000).

Amongst the city's boroughs, Brooklyn had the highest rate of child injury deaths, with 5.6 per 100,000, and Manhattan the lowest with 2.6 per 100,000.


Intentional Child Deaths

There were 91 child homicide cases between 2001 and 2007, accounting for approximately one quarter (23%) of all injury deaths over the seven-year study period. The majority (22%) were from blunt impact injuries, followed by gunshot wounds (17%), smoke inhalation (13%), fatal child abuse (12%), stab wounds (10%) and other causes (22%). Suicides accounted for six deaths (2%) between 2001 and 2007; these occurred in five girls and one boy ages 11 and 12.

Strategies for preventing fatal injuries in the home:

* Legislators can mandate safe temperatures for tap water, prohibit the sale of novelty lighters, require manufactures to provide stabilizers and tipping warnings on products.

* Regulatory agencies can strictly enforce pool security and gun storage laws.

* Policy makers can fund and promote research on child injury prevention, implement and enforce laws and standards that have been proven to reduce the occurrence of injury, and ensure that children have access to safe playgrounds and recreational spaces to reduce the risk of injury.

* Educators can prioritize home injury prevention in elementary and middle school curricula.

* Community centers and community-based organizations can develop programs to address injury prevention.

* Health care providers can counsel parents about safeguarding their homes and about the need for child supervision.

* Landlords can abide by and enforce local laws that require the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in multiple and private dwellings, as well as stress the importance to tenants of testing the devises regularly and replacing batteries twice a year.