The history of injury control and the epidemiology of child and adolescent injuries

Future Child. 2000 Spring-Summer;10(1):23-52.


Unintentional injuries claim the lives of more children each year than any other cause of death. A substantial proportion of child hospitalizations and emergency department visits also are attributable to unintentional injuries. The conceptualization of unintentional injuries as a public health problem that is preventable has gained credibility over the past few decades, as effective solutions to reduce the burden of injuries--such as child safety seats, bicycle helmets, and smoke detectors--have been identified. Successful implementation of these strategies requires a clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding injuries and the risk and protective factors that influence the likelihood that a child will be injured. Although adequate data on these factors is available for some causes of injury, such as motor vehicle crashes, it is almost nonexistent for others, such as unintentional firearm injuries. Overall, unintentional injury rates are highest among adolescents ages 15 to 19, males, children from impoverished families, and minorities. Also, some injuries occur more often in rural areas. Although these demographic risk factors cannot be modified, environmental and behavioral risks, such as unsafe roads, alcohol intoxication, unfenced swimming pools, and the absence of a smoke detector in the home, can be modified successfully with appropriate strategies. Motor vehicle occupant, drowning, and pedestrian injuries were the most common unintentional injuries causing death among children ages 0 to 19 in 1996. Together, these mechanisms accounted for more than half of all unintentional injury deaths among children and adolescents, although rates varied considerably by age. Child injury death rates across most age categories and mechanisms of injury have declined during the past 20 years, yet the reasons for these declines are poorly understood. Additional research about risk and protective factors, and efforts to implement successful injury prevention strategies among populations at highest risk for injuries, are necessary to further reduce the toll on children's lives.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Accident Prevention*
  • Accidents / mortality
  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Accidents / trends
  • Adolescent
  • Causality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mortality / trends
  • Prevalence
  • Safety / history
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / history
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control