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From Guns to Cars and More, Youth Injuries Are 'Public Health Crisis'

Police continue to search for a motive in a shooting that left nine children injured at a Georgia gas station. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 17, Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon said. The shooting took place late Friday night in Columbus. Seven males and two females were hurt, the chief said, USA Today reports. Police believe a fight from a nearby party spilled over to the gas station when the shooting began. Although unusual for a single incident in its victims' numbers and ages, the shooting illustrates a problem that extends beyond gun violence. More than 7,000 children up to age 19 died of unintentional injuries in 2019 – about 20 deaths each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and the problems grow exponentially for nonfatal injuries. In 2020, gun violence was the leading cause of death for children and teens. Along with car crashes and violence, other causes of injury and death include drowning, falls, suffocation and self-harm, USA Today reports.

“People don't think of it as a public health crisis,” said pediatrician Dr. Sadiqa Kendi, who is leading a new program in Massachusetts that seeks a more thorough accounting of pediatric injuries. “There's just not a recognition, especially in our society, around the significant impact of injuries and the fact that these serious injuries that lead to death are preventable.” Black communities are more likely to have large arterial roads run through them, increasing the risk of pedestrian injuries when children and teens cross or walk nearby to get to a park, for example. Indigenous youth suicide — also a culmination of barriers including lack of access to mental health care — is also a concern. One analysis found injuries, including crashes, homicide and suicide, made up 41 percent of all deaths among American Indian and Alaska Native children. In counties and states across the nation, multidisciplinary teams gather in what are called child death review committees to discuss cases of pediatric deaths. But there’s a growing need to track nonfatal injuries that lead to hospitalizations or ER visits, especially from an equity standpoint. “The fatalities are really the tip of the iceberg,” Kendi said. The program she started, MassPier, is an equity-centered review process for pediatric injuries in Massachusetts. The aim is to track inequities, collect detailed racial and age-related data, and develop targeted recommendations for alleviating disproportionate injury rates. Modeling the program after the child death review process, the team created a toolkit with the goal that other communities and local governments can replicate it.


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