12 June 2012
A European “report card” published today states that England is one of the safest countries in Europe for children and young people but reveals that improvements could be made, particularly in terms of national government leadership on accident prevention.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has welcomed the card’s publication and hopes its recommendations will encourage national-level action on child safety.
England’s Child Safety Report Card, produced by the European Child Safety Alliance (ECSA), gives the country a “fair” grade (a score of 36 out of 60) for its national-level policies across nine areas of safety (passenger safety; motor scooter and moped safety; pedestrian safety; cycling safety; water safety/drowning prevention; falls prevention; burns prevention; poisoning prevention; and choking/strangulation prevention) and three strategic issues (leadership; infrastructure; and capacity).
However, the card describes England as “one of the safest countries in Europe”, and an accompanying Child Safety Country Profile providing statistical information reveals that England’s child and young person injury (accidental and intentional) death rates are ranked 2nd out of 31 countries for males and 3rd out of 31 countries for females.
Although its injury death rates are lower than in most other countries, the report card says that injury remains a leading cause of death in children and young people aged 0-19 in England, with 544 injury-related deaths in this age group in 2009. The country profile states that injury death rates have “levelled out” in recent years and says that 33,831 potential years of life were lost due to accidental injury deaths among 0-19s in England in 2009 - “years where children and adolescents won’t be growing, learning and eventually contributing to society”.
Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser, said: “We welcome the publication of these new reports that turn the spotlight on children and young people’s safety in England. Although England is described as one of the safest countries in Europe, we cannot rest on our laurels when injury is still claiming the lives of hundreds of children and young people each year. This is a critical time for accident prevention in the context of the reorganisation of public health across England. We hope the report card and country profile will encourage national-level action on child safety to support and build on the work that is already ongoing across the country, particularly the work undertaken by the public sector at a local level and also by the third sector.”
In England in 2009, injuries (accidental and intentional) were responsible for 10.5 per cent of all child and young person deaths, with accidental injury alone accounting for about one in eight male deaths and one in 15 female deaths in this age group.
A closer look at the specific causes of accidental death over a three-year period from 2007-2009 show that road traffic accidents continue to take the greatest toll, particularly among 15-19-year-olds (e.g. 10.55 driver/passenger deaths per 100,000 population for males and 3.01 driver/passenger deaths per 100,000 population for females). The death rates linked to choking/strangulation among babies under a year old are also of note (3.36 deaths per 100,000 population for males and 1.97 deaths per 100,000 population for females).
The report card recommends that, in addition to continuing to enhance road safety (an issue on which the greatest gains have been made), increased attention should be given to injuries occurring in and around the home. And it says: “There is a continued need to support and fund injury prevention measures in a combined approach of education, engineering and enforcement of standards and regulations.”
It continues: “England currently has excellent capacity to address child safety and reasonable infrastructure. However, stronger leadership from government is required to ensure endorsement and implementation of a national strategy with specific targets for child and adolescent safety that takes into account priority areas and performance gaps, provides financial resources to support co-ordination and infrastructure specific to child and adolescent safety and maintains and enhances existing capacity.”
It says there is a continued need for support to enable the exchange of information on good practice along the “continuum from national to local injury prevention initiatives”. And it calls for the national government to integrate evidence-based good practice strategies into national public health programmes and to ensure that child safety is addressed in all policies.
The report card says the recent announcement of investment in home safety should “begin to address some gaps”. And it says that, in a time of reduced resources, it is key to look for solutions that provide co-benefits to other issues in addition to injury prevention e.g. improving road safety could encourage increased physical activity.
ECSA is publishing report cards for 31 European countries. The publication of the cards is just one of a variety of activities to benchmark and monitor child injury and related action as part of ECSA’s EU-funded TACTICS project (Tools to Address Childhood Trauma, Injury and Children’s Safety).
ECSA - www.childsafetyeurope.org - is an initiative of the European Association for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion (EuroSafe) and is hosted by RoSPA.