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Home Safety Boosted by Education, Free Safety Equipment

Armen Hareyan's picture

Home safety education, especially with free or low-cost equipment such as smoke detectors thrown in, can make a family's home significantly safer, according to a new review of recent studies.

However, there isn't enough evidence yet to know whether these home improvements lead to fewer child injuries, say researchers led by Dr. Denise Kendrick of the University of Nottingham in London.

The findings suggest that pediatricians should offer safety education and "access to free, low-cost or discounted safety equipment as part of their child health promotion program," Kendrick said.

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

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One-on-one, face-to-face home safety education might be a boon to public health, since "in industrialized countries injuries are now the leading cause of death in childhood," Kendrick said.

Among the 80 studies analyzed by the Cochrane reviewers, such education helped families "safety-proof" in a number of ways. Families who received the education were more likely to keep their tap water at a safe temperature, store medicines and cleaning products out of reach and have poison control center phone numbers at hand.

In more than a third of studies reviewed, families received free or low-cost equipment such as smoke alarms and electrical socket covers. In most cases, receiving such equipment seemed to boost the likelihood of the specified safety practice.

Safety education seemed to work less well in other areas, such as safely storing matches, using window locks and nonslip bath mats and keeping a fire extinguisher in the house.

A recent survey by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that pediatricians often do not discuss the full range of child-safety measures with parents.

"We found that safety devices parents commonly use are discussed more than other less- familiar devices,'' said Dr. Winnie Whitaker, a Cincinnati Children