A recent study examining the effectiveness of national accident prevention campaigns—such as those that encourage the use of bicycle helmets, automobile safety seats and smoke detectors—in reducing fatal childhood injuries contains both good news and bad news when it comes to children of color. The good news is that between 1981 and 2003, the national rate of accidental deaths among children ages zero to four declined across all racial and ethnic groups, which seems to indicate that these prevention programs are working.

So what’s bad? The study, published in the April issue of Pediatrics, found that African American children were still 63% more likelyto die from unintentional injuries than white kids, and that American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children were more than two times as likely to die. In particular, young black children were at a higher risk of dying from burns and certain types of car accidents than their Caucasian counterparts. Even more troubling, both African American and AI/AN youngsters are three times more likely to be killed by gun-related accidents.

Why the disparity? One possible reason suggested by the research is that these national child safety awareness campaigns may be reaching some racial and ethnic groups more successfully than others. According to the study’s lead author, Joyce C. Pressley, an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, “We can show in individual studies, in small, single communities, that these approaches work. The question is whether they’re being disseminated widely to all populations.”

This concern is echoed by Dr. Michael J. Mello, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. “[Black and AI/AN children and parents] may have not received injury-prevention messages,” he told HealthDay News. “These messages must be delivered in a culturally tailored format to be understood and adopted by all groups. We have many evidence-based injury-prevention strategies, but we need to research how to translate them to be adopted, implemented and maintained in all of our communities.”

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