Objectives: New Zealand is one of a small number of countries that has a national hospital discharge database. The aim of this study was to use these data to provide an epidemiological description of child injury morbidity and to discuss options for prevention.
Methodology: Using national data, all public hospital admissions for the fiscal year 1995/6 were identified and grouped according to cause. This allowed identification of all children (0-14 years) hospitalized for injury in the period 1987-1996. Causes of injury, diagnoses and injury severity were examined in four age groups.
Results: Injury was the second leading cause of public hospital admissions. Children were hospitalized with injury at the rate of 1333 per 100 000 person-years. The victims were predominantly male (61%). In all age groups, falls were the leading cause of morbidity. 'Striking events', motor vehicle traffic crashes and poisoning were also major contributors to the child injury toll. The commonest injury diagnosis was a fracture of the upper limb (25%), followed by intracranial injury (18%).
Conclusions: The leading causes of injury morbidity were noted to differ from previously reported leading causes of injury mortality. Review of the data in light of research literature suggests the need for policy changes to make alternatives to motor vehicle transportation safer and to encourage increased use of child restraints in order to reduce road traffic trauma. Legislation requiring child-resistant packaging for all toxic medications and household products is necessary to reduce rates of child poisoning. Further research is required on policies concerning playground equipment heights and surfacing requirements, and on interventions for hot water scalds.