Child Fatality Report: Parent education needed

Child Fatality Report: Parent education needed

The Travis County Child Fatality Review Team released its annual report in April, documenting the causes of death in 2007 of Austin-area children ages 17 and younger. Much of the new data is consistent with the averages over the 12 years since the CFRT began reporting child fatalities, but some numbers do stand out. The number of accidental deaths, for instance, stood at 19, down dramatically from last year's 38, though consistent with most years prior.

Of particular concern are those accidental deaths due to asphyxiation, which came to seven total. While that's down from 2006, when 17 children died of suffocation, it is still above other years, and is already matched this year by seven additional asphyxiation deaths just since January. In response, the Center for Child Protection has launched public awareness efforts to educate parents about "safe sleeping" techniques, such as putting infants to bed on "firm, unobstructed sleep surfaces" and avoiding sleeping with children when under the influence of drugs, prescription or otherwise.

Another disturbing trend: Four teenagers, all boys, committed suicide in 2007, doubling the number from the year before. Overall last year, the total number of child fatalities was 125 (down from 140 in 2006). As in the past, the majority of those deaths (92) resulted from natural causes such as premature birth, congenital defects, cancer, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Three child deaths were ruled homicides, slightly below the yearly average of five. The ethnic imbalance (which is also socio-economic) bears noting: Hispanics accounted for 43% of all child deaths, while Anglos accounted for 26%, African-Americans 20%, and Asians 10%.

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