The death of any child is a tragedy – for the family and for the community. Everybody wants to prevent childhood deaths. But making policy interventions to prevent childhood deaths requires information in order to develop effective policy interventions. That’s where the Arizona Child Fatality Review State Team comes in.
More than 25 years ago the state legislature passed a law establishing the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program (A.R.S. § 36-342, 36-3501-4). It’s a great example of establishing public policy designed to build data and evidence so policy makers can use evidence to build future interventions.
The State Team includes representatives from the Academy of Pediatrics and from the ADES Divisions of Developmental Disabilities and Children and Family Services, as well as from law enforcement and the ADHS. The team’s role is to review all childhood deaths in AZ and produce an annual report to the Governor and legislature with a summary of findings and recommendations based on promising and proven strategies regarding the prevention of child deaths.
In past years this focus has raised the awareness about child drowning and the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs or making sure all children are always secured in car seats. Other recommendations included taking action to reduce the number of uninsured, decrease medical complications of pregnancy and increase safe sleep practices.
The 2018 Child Fatality Review Report was published last week- and as usual it provides a host of data and recommendations that are directly tied to evidence. Here are some examples from this year’s report.
Child suicides increased an astonishing 32% and accounted for 6% percent of all child deaths. A history of family discord was the most commonly identified preventable factor in suicides followed closely by a history of recent break-up, drug/alcohol use and an argument with a parent.
Firearm deaths increased 19% from the previous report. Suicides and homicides accounted for 88% of firearm-related deaths in 2017. Fifty-one percent of firearm related deaths were a result of suicide (n=22) and 37% of firearm related deaths were homicides (n=16).
Injury deaths increased 4% from the previous reporting period and comprised 23% of all child deaths. The leading cause was car crashes and 31% of the injury deaths were among kids less than 1 year old… and important piece of data considering Arizona has yet to adopt a law requiring kids under 2 years old to be in a rear facing car seat.
The number of unsafe sleep deaths increased 5% from the previous year. 60% were bed sharing with adults and/or other children. Child fatalities due to maltreatment decreased 4% and accounted for 10% of all child deaths in Arizona. Substance use was a factor in 65% of maltreatment deaths.
Drowning deaths increased 30% over the period and accounted for 4% of all child deaths. 63% occurred in a pool or hot tub. Lack of supervision was a factor in 69% of drowning deaths.
Substance use was a factor in 17% of all child fatalities (n=136). The majority of substance use related deaths involved the child or the child’s parent as the main user contributing to the death of the child. In 49% of substance use related deaths, the parent was misusing or abusing alcohol or drugs.
The full report covers each of these areas including some recommendations for policy and program interventions in each area. Sometimes the recommendations are more related to increasing awareness but many are more policy based.
Lots of work went into this report- so if you're somebody in a position to influence either lawmakers or agency officials to implement preventative policies in these areas- please get familiar with this important research product - it will really help inform your advocacy efforts.