Monday, October 03, 2005

An Effort to Save the Children

This week the House passed a resolution to form the Katie Elise Lambert Commission, to study the causes unintentional injuries to children and recommend changes in state law. Sponsors were Josh Shapiro (D-153) and Jerry Birmelin (R-139). The commission is named after a young girl who lived in Shapiro’s district who was killed by toppled furniture. The Senate will hear testimony and vote on it this month.

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, the leading single cause of death for those in the 1-4, 5-14, and 15-24 age ranges is an accident of some kind. (The second leading cause for those 15-24 is homicide, followed by suicide, equally if not more alarming.)

The word “accident” covers a broad range of causes. Parents are always told not to look away from their young children for a second. I remember a frightening afternoon when the youngest little Jane scooped detergent out of the dishwasher while I was putting dishes away. When I turned around all I could see was a little mouth covered with green. We had the poison control hotline number of the fridge and a quick, frantic call told me how to take care of the situation.

Accident could also mean a fall, a drowning, eating something toxic, taking a parent’s medication that looked like candy, and any number of other things. This commission will take a look at what types of accidents occur in Pennsylvania most often and what can be done about them.

When I heard about this commission I was a little skeptical. It is easy to point fingers at big faceless corporations and say they are to blame. I was pleased to see wording in the commission that implies other factors will be viewed. I wonder how many accidental deaths could be prevented if, for example, parents or caregivers knew CPR. Or had the poison control hotline number on the fridge. Or just had a phone to call someone (the rural poor may not have access to a phone to call for help). You may have read how the simple act of putting babies to sleep on their backs instead of the stomach has cut down on crib deaths. Those little round bald spots they all get on the backs of their heads now are badges of honor, showing they sleep on the backs instead of tummies. Perhaps there are other simple things we can do to further cut down on child accidental death.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has introduced similar legislation at the federal level. This is an excellent example of state and federal officials working in concert on an issue.

Congrats to Reps. Birmelin and Shapiro, and Congressman Schwartz for these useful bits of legislation. I will follow this and let you know what happens.

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