Skip over navigation

Journal Issue: Unintentional Injuries in Childhood Volume 10 Number 1 Spring/Summer 2000

Statement of Purpose
Richard E. Behrman

Statement of Purpose

The primary purpose of The Future of Children is to disseminate timely information on major issues related to children's well-being, with special emphasis on providing objective analysis and evaluation, translating existing knowledge into effective programs and policies, and promoting constructive institutional change. In attempting to achieve these objectives, we are targeting a multidisciplinary audience of national leaders, including policymakers, practitioners, legislators, executives, and professionals in the public and private sectors. This publication is intended to complement, not duplicate, the kind of technical analysis found in academic journals and in the general coverage of children's issues by the popular press and special interest groups.

This issue of the journal focuses on unintentional injuries among children and their prevention. At this time, when rapid medical and technological advances are lessening the burden of many childhood diseases and capturing the imagination of the public and attention of the media, it is important to keep the health needs of children in perspective. The mortality and morbidity from all of these diseases are dwarfed by the numbers of children and youths who die or who are crippled as the result of unintentional injuries, commonly termed “accidents.” These injuries are responsible for, on average, about 37 child deaths each day, and cost society billions of dollars annually. The majority of these injury deaths result from car crashes, residential fires, drownings, and pedestrian collisions, and nearly all of these deaths are preventable. The high rate of childhood injuries, their staggering costs, and their preventability suggest to us that injury prevention should be a major focus of public health efforts in years to come.

The articles in this journal issue discuss the epidemiology and costs of childhood injuries and review current knowledge on the effectiveness of prevention efforts targeting individuals, communities, and state or federal policies. As the articles illustrate, the most effective injury prevention efforts often are those that focus on public policy change, reinforced through legislation or regulations. Public policies—such as requirements that young children be restrained in car seats, that prescription medications have child-resistant caps, and that children's sleepwear be flame retardant—save the lives of thousands of children each year. Yet there are many more opportunities to reduce childhood injuries through policy changes that have not been seized. Uniform statewide requirements that children and teen bicyclists wear helmets, fences that enclose swimming pools on all sides, and environmental changes that slow the speed and density of traffic in residential areas are just a few strategies that could further reduce childhood injuries if widely implemented. These public policy strategies have a greater likelihood of being implemented and enforced if they are coupled with communitywide efforts to change social norms about the acceptability of safety behaviors, and adequate financial resources to ensure the availability of safety devices.

We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this issue of The Future of Children. Our intention is to encourage informed debate about unintentional injuries in childhood. To this end we invite correspondence to the Editor. We would also appreciate your comments about the approach we have taken in presenting the focus topic and welcome your suggestions for future topics.