Swimming pool underwater
Underwater view of a pool. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Can a new campaign reduce the number of children drownings, poisonings, traffic deaths and other preventable fatalities?

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to launch a child safety campaign in April aimed at reducing the number of there tragic fatalities.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn recommended ramping up efforts to educate parents.

“It is absolutely devastating to hear reports of children tragically passing or getting hurt due to preventable accidents,” Solis said. “Our children are our greatest asset, and together, we must look out for them and educate the adults who raise them and keep them safe.”

There are many programs designed to raise awareness of dangers, and yet 70 children died of poisoning, drowned or were killed in traffic collisions in Los Angeles County in 2013, the supervisors said in their motion. More than 1,000 children were hospitalized for the same reasons that year.

Outreach to parents is key, Hahn said, recalling her early childhood, when seat belts weren’t commonly used.

“We will work to educate and raise public awareness among adults on how we can keep our most vulnerable residents safe,” Hahn said.

Work remains to be done to ensure that parents use car seats, put cell phones away while driving and always make sure their kids buckle up. And collisions involving vehicles and children on foot or on bicycles — sometimes run over in their own driveway — remain the leading cause of unintentional child deaths, according to the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.

The county will also focus on internet safety, gun safety, bike helmets and safe sleep.

An aggressive public awareness campaign about the dangers of co-sleeping with an infant or leaving babies to sleep in a cluttered crib helped dropped the number of those deaths by nearly two-thirds, ICAN Executive Director Deanne Tilton Durfee told City News Service.

However, it remains the second leading cause of unintentional child deaths in the county — with 24 infants dying due to co-sleeping or unsafe sleep in 2015 — outpacing child abuse as a cause, according to ICAN’s preliminary numbers, set to be published in April.

“It is the most preventable and most tragic way to lose a young life,” Durfee said, adding that children under a year old and especially those less than 6 months old are “extremely vulnerable.”

Parents sometimes fail to realize that they shift position more than a dozen times as they sleep and can easily roll over an infant sleeping in the same bed, she said.

During the board meeting, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said safe sleep is a particularly problematic issue in the homeless community, where there have been “a number of infant deaths.”

Kuehl said cribs are typically available in homeless shelters, but may not be on hand in motels where homeless families use vouchers to pay for temporary quarters. And “it’s very difficult to arrange safe sleep in a car,” Kuehl said, referring to families forced to use their vehicle as a home.

The county could do more to help, but many homeless individuals try to hide the fact that they have children, afraid that social service agencies will take their family away, Kuehl said.

ICAN doesn’t track the number of child deaths related to homelessness and further detail was not immediately available from Kuehl’s office or other sources.

Details on the scope of the child safety campaign, including more data on unintentional deaths, is expected in 60 days.

–City News Service 

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