How psychology can help prevent fatal childhood accidents

Injuries have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of death for children worldwide, and psychologists have the knowledge to help predict and prevent fatal childhood mishaps, according to a presentation at the Association’s annual convention. American Psychology to which Ep. “Many different factors contribute to unintentional injuries, so if we can stop just one of these risk factors, the injury could be prevented,” says David C. Schwebel of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, United States, who did the presentation-. By using novel behavioral strategies, we can possibly prevent injuries that were previously considered unavoidable accidents. ”

The injuries were responsible for the deaths of more than 11,000 and the emergency visits of more than 6.7 million American children in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Global Burden of Disease project estimates that more than 2 million children under the age of 19 worldwide died as a result of injuries in 2017. While these numbers represent all injuries, the presentation focused only on unintentional injuries (es say accidents) rather than intentional injuries such as suicide , manslaughter and abuse.

Risk factor’s

Schwebel described a model that psychologists could use to reduce accidental injury in children. The model groups risk factors into three categories: factors based on the environment, the caregiver and the child . According to Schwebel, each category contributes in some way to almost all incidents, and preventing a single risk factor could prevent injury from occurring.

Environment-based factors can include many different aspects of the environment with which children interact. For example, children could choke on toys if they are not well designed or injured in a car accident due to an improperly installed car seat.

Schwebel described a case in which he and his colleagues reduced environmental risk by comparing the appearance and shape of bottles containing juice or torch fuel. The children were shown many bottles, some with torch fuel and some with juice, and asked if they would drink them or not.

Children tended to identify liquids in clear plastic bottles as beverages and those in opaque containers as non-beverages. After the findings were published, there were obvious changes in the torch fuel industry as the fuel began selling in dark opaque bottles.

The caregiver (parents, teachers …)

Caregiver-based factors can involve anyone supervising a child, including parents, teachers, caregivers, or even first responders . According to Schwebel, preschool teachers can often be underpaid and fatigued from the intense work of supervising children throughout the day, and sometimes using playtime outdoors as a break for themselves, which it allows children to run free, despite the fact that most injuries in preschoolers occur on playgrounds.

“To solve this problem, we developed the Safety Stamp Program where children use a name tag and teachers have stamps to reward children on their labels for their safe behavior,” he explains. Although on the surface this seems to focus on rewarding children for safe behavior, its main objective is to get teachers to get involved and pay attention. ”

The minors themselves

Child-based factors include motor skills, how children perceive their environment, and how they interact with others. These skills vary greatly by age, so different approaches are needed to deal with risks. For example, 7-year-olds struggle more with the cognitive demands of crossing the street than 14-year-olds. Interventions for child-based factors may include reinforcing common parenting practices, such as teaching children to cross the street safely or showing them how to interact with stray dogs.

The way specific situations are chosen for interventions can be mixed, Schwebel said. For example, the idea of ​​a drowning prevention program came after Schwebel watched lifeguards as her own children played in a pool. Other intervention ideas are drawn from personal experiences and ideas brought to you by your students, such as the Stamp in Safety program .

And while psychological researchers are essential, this work will require collaboration in a variety of disciplines, Schwebel said. Throughout his research, Schwebel has worked with computer scientists, visual artists, electrical engineers, biostatistics, physicians, epidemiologists, and others.

“Globally, we are in the midst of an unprecedented decline in the health burden of communicable and infectious diseases. As the world develops, health risks change, says Schwebel. Psychologists have the necessary experience, behavioral theory, and methodologies to understand and take steps to prevent the significant health burden of unintentional injuries. ”


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