Injury Prevention and Safety

In addition to the chronic health impacts of unhealthy housing such as lead poisoning, asthma, and cancer, unsafe housing conditions also interfere with the immediate health and well-being of children through unintentional injuries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in all children ages 1-21. However, there is a disparity in the rates that these accidental injuries are experienced. Individuals with low socioeconomic standing, especially urban African-American children, have historically experienced greater rates of injury. Additionally, male children also tend to experience a higher rate of injury.

Although the type of unintentional injury most likely to occur varies with the age of the child, Safe Kids Worldwide identifies fire, drowning, suffocation, choking, falls, unintentional firearm injury, and poisoning as leading causes of death in the home.

Reducing Risks

Although unintentional injuries are by definition accidental, there are basic precautions that can be taken in the home to help limit the conditions conducive to injury:

  • Properly and consistently use safety devices such as smoke detectors, bicycle helmets, gates, and child-proof containers and latches.
  • Actively supervise children’s activities, including continuously monitoring children while they are in or near water and generally restricting children’s access to areas containing potentially hazardous materials or objects.
  • Keep other dangerous items out of children’s reach, such as knives, handles from pots on the stove, hot liquids, and cords to appliances and window treatments.
  • Know and have accessible important phone numbers, such as emergency response teams, poison control, and family doctors.

Additional behaviors, such as refraining from cigarette smoking in the home, can reduce multiple health risks to children including chronic health impacts (asthma) as well as unintentional injury — residential fires caused by smoking materials (including cigarettes) are the leading cause of fire-related death.

Creating a safer home environment will serve not only to lower the risk of children’s unintentional injury, but also to assist in the establishment of an overall healthier home environment.

Injury Prevention Resources

The Injury Prevention Program
American Academy of Pediatrics’ Injury Prevention Program is an educational program that aims to prevent common injuries in children under 12 from sources such as poisons, falls, burns, vehicles, and more. Their website provides age-related safety sheets, national campaign information, and other educational resource.

Safe Kids Worldwide
A national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional injuries in children, SAFE KIDS also coordinates numerous state and local coalitions nationwide. The national website contains information on the campaign, safety tips, product recalls, and how to get involved in the various coalitions.

Unintentional Injuries in Childhood
The Future of Children published a special issue on potential safety hazards for children in 2000. An account is required in order to access the articles.

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control is the federal government’s lead agency for injury prevention. In addition to education and factual resources on injury, violent injury, and unintentional injury, their website provides information on national injury prevention and research activities.

Su Familia (Your Family) Helpline
The National Alliance for Hispanic Health sponsors this toll-free helpline (1-866-SU FAMILIA or 1-866-783-2645) to offer Hispanic consumers free, reliable, and confidential health information in Spanish and English and help navigate callers through the healthcare system.  |  En español: La National Alliance for Hispanic Health (Alianza Nacional para la Salud de los Hispanos) patrocina esta línea de ayuda gratuita (1-866-SU FAMILIA o 1-866-783-2645) para ofrecer a los consumidores hispanos información de salud gratuita, confiable y confidencial en español e inglés y ayudar a las personas que llaman sistema de cuidado de la salud.


NCHH’s “Safety’s No Accident” blog series:

Additional NCHH safety blogs: