Objective: To describe the use of an emergency department (ED)-based injury surveillance model to determine the incidence and mechanisms of nonfatal injuries among children living in Cabrini Green, a poor urban community.
Methods: Using ED records and census data, population-based injury rates were determined for a retrospective cohort of children, 0 to 14 years old, (N = 3908) with nonfatal injuries resulting in ED treatment between January 1994 and December 1998.
Results: There were 1950 nonfatal injuries during the 5-year study period (annual injury incidence of 998/10,000). Age-specific rates (per 10,000 per year) were 899 among 0- to 4-year olds, 616 among 5- to 9-year olds, and 435 among 10- to 14-year olds. Sixty-three percent were male. The most common injury mechanisms were falls (339/10,000 per year), being struck by/against an object (201/10,000 per year), and being cut/pierced by an object (87/10,000 per year). Falls from a building window (2/10,000 per year) were infrequent. The incidence of housefire-related burns was 1.5/10,000 per year. Intentional injuries included alleged child abuse, 43/10,000 per year, and assaults, 30/10,000 per year. The assault rate among 10- to 14-year-old males was 100/10,000 per year. One hundred thirty-four children were admitted to the hospital (average annual rate of 69/10,000). The most frequent admission diagnoses were falls (22/10,000) among 0- to 9-year olds and assaults (13/10,000) among 10- to 14-year olds.
Conclusion: An ED-based injury surveillance system can provide an efficient and useful way to determine injury incidence in a defined urban community. The data suggest that rates of violence-related injuries were high, while rates of window falls and housefires were low. These data have allowed targeted injury prevention efforts in Cabrini Green, and future surveillance will allow the evaluation of injury prevention activities.