Health Department Releases Report Detailing Continued Decline in Overall Child Injury Fatality Rate Between 1999 and 2013

Deaths from motor vehicle and fire-related injuries declined, but remained leading causes of unintentional injury deaths among children

Intentional and unintentional injury death rates remain highest among children living in high-poverty areas and Black children

May 25, 2016 – The Health Department, in its lead role in the New York City Child Fatality Review Advisory Team, today released its annual report which details child injury deaths over a 15-year period. Yearly numbers of injury deaths fell from 61 deaths in 1999 to 46 deaths in 2013. New York City’s child injury death rate continues to be substantially lower than the national rate (4 vs. 8 deaths per 100,000 children). Most injury deaths were unintentional. Motor vehicle and fire-related deaths, the two leading causes of unintentional child injury deaths, declined in the 15-year time period examined in this report. The substantial decrease in motor vehicle-related deaths among Black children is promising and contributed to reduced disparities in unintentional child injury deaths overall.  The report reviews trends in injury deaths among children ages one to 12 years in New York City.

“While we are encouraged to see a decline in overall injury death rates among children, any death of a child is a tragedy,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The continued excess rates in communities of color and among children living in poverty are unacceptable, especially as these deaths are largely preventable. We will continue our efforts to create safer streets for children in every community in our city.”    

While NYC children continue to have a lower rate of injury death than children nationwide, injuries still pose a risk to New York City children. From 1999 to 2013, there were 723 injury deaths among NYC children. Unintentional injury death rates have declined since 1999, however, rates are highest among children living in very high-poverty areas and among Black children. Overall, intentional (homicide and suicide) injury deaths accounted for approximately one-third of all deaths. Rates were relatively constant between 1999 and 2013, but increased among Black and Asian children. Rates were also consistently higher among children in high-poverty areas when compared to children in low- and medium-poverty communities. The overwhelming majority of intentional deaths among children were homicides, which have fallen from 73 (1999-2003) to 50 (2009-2013). Child homicide death rates remained highest among children ages 1-2 years, followed by children ages 3-4 years. Suicides among children ages 9 to 12 years old, while rare in NYC, have increased over the past 15 years. The number of suicide deaths rose from two from 1999-2003 to 13 between 2009 and 2013. This trend is similar to a citywide increase of suicide deaths among all age groups, as well as nationally among children during this same time period. 

“The safety and well-being of our City’s children remains a top priority and I am pleased that child injury deaths have declined over a 15-year period,” said ACS Commissioner Gladys Carrión. “While these findings are encouraging, any child fatality is one too many. We will continue to collaborate with our partners from other City agencies to address the underlying issues that lead to these unfortunate, often preventable, fatalities.”

“While the death of one child is too many, the DOHMH report brings some encouraging trends for New York City – especially around traffic safety,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “We are confident that under Mayor de Blasio’s leadership, Vision Zero is making a real difference.  With expanded enforcement, more safety projects on our roadways and a robust education effort for our City’s most vulnerable pedestrians, our kids, we are continuing to do all that we can to bring these numbers down even further.  I thank Commissioner Bassett for spreading some good news about the safety of our City.”

"New York City continues to make progress in a number of areas relating to public health," said Council Member Corey Johnson. ‎"This report shows how far we've come and how far we have to go. As we seek to reduce these rates even further, we must work to address the disparities between communities. I applaud Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their efforts."

“While it’s encouraging that the childhood injury death rate in New York City continues to be about half the national rate, any childhood fatality is one too many.  We must continue to press for stronger pedestrian safety measures, better fire protection and prevention efforts, and heightened awareness of the rising incidence of ‘tween’ suicides, both in New York City and around the nation,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.

“As an elected official, but more importantly as a parent, I know that the safety of our children is the single most important issue our communities face. It's good news that New York City kids continue to enjoy a lower rate of injury deaths than children nationwide, but fatalities – both accidental and intentional – remain unacceptably high in diverse and low-income communities. I thank Commissioner Bassett and Mayor de Blasio for their report, which should serve as a reminder to everyone how far we have to go to make New York a safer city for all our children,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

“The declining child injury fatality rate is a cause for celebration and a reminder that the policies and programs the City has been putting into place are making a difference. That said, the clear racial and ethnic disparities indicate that there is more work to do to make New York City a safer place to be a child. Citizens' Committee for Children looks forward to working with city leaders, including the Department of Health, the Administration for Children's Services and the Public Advocate to implement solutions such as adding more speed cameras to make the streets safer, increasing mental health services to lower child suicide rates, and increasing funding for home visiting programs that are proven to improve outcomes for children,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Advocacy Citizens' Committee for Children.

"Fewer kids are being killed and injured in traffic crashes across the five boroughs, and that's a direct result of the work the City has done over the past several years to make our streets safer for the most vulnerable," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "To keep those death and injury stats falling, and to protect our children equitably in every community, the City must make a full Vision Zero investment to redesign all of our most dangerous streets, and make sure traffic enforcement deters the most deadly violations: speeding and failure to yield."

To reduce the number of motor vehicle-related deaths, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched Vision Zero in 2014. The City has already implemented a number of safety initiatives, such as a reduced citywide speed limit and increasing the number of speed cameras in school zones. This past January, Mayor de Blasio announced several new initiatives being undertaken this year – including a more intensive safety education effort done in collaboration with the Department of Education in elementary and middle schools. This new curriculum, for 4th-6th graders, will help meet the report’s additional recommendations on how educating children could help reduce motor vehicle-related injuries: the report recommends that parents, caregivers, teachers and health care providers should teach children to cross the street at crosswalks, follow pedestrian and traffic signals, and look both ways before crossing the street.

To reduce the risk of intentional injury deaths, the City has invested in programs to ensure children and parents have access to mental health services. The Department of Education’s School-Based Mental Health Program offers a range of services to students who have emotional and behavioral difficulties in City schools. On-site services, mobile response teams, and trainings provide comprehensive support to children and adolescents.

To reduce community violence – which can create or exacerbate stressors in the home – in August 2014, the de Blasio administration expanded community-based anti-violence programming in its Crisis Management System (CMS). It aims to reduce gun violence in 17 neighborhoods where violence accounts for over half of NYC’s shootings through a collaborative of community organizations and government partners delivering services shown to reduce violence. At CMS’s foundation is Cure Violence, an evidence‐based public health approach to reduce violence among youth and change community norms that reinforce violence through the use of “credible messengers” and community mobilization techniques.

Thrive NYC
ThriveNYC is an unprecedented strategy and set of 54 initiatives by the City to approach mental health as a comprehensive public health challenge involving many City agencies. ThriveNYC aims to change the conversation, eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and provide greater access for children and adults to mental health care.

Last month, First Lady Chirlane McCray announced the launch of “Today I Thrive,” a comprehensive ThriveNYC campaign to raise awareness among New Yorkers about the prevalence and treatment of mental health issues. The ads aim to open the conversation about mental illness, a problem affecting one in five New Yorkers. The campaign also seeks to destigmatize mental health issues by reframing the way people think and talk about them. For more information on ThriveNYC, visit nyc.gov/thrivenyc.

The child injury deaths report was authored by the Health Department and the Child Fatality Review Advisory Team, a multidisciplinary committee of representatives from City agencies as well as child welfare and medical experts appointed by the Mayor, the City Council Speaker, and the Public Advocate. It was formed in 2006 by Local Law 115 to review and report on injuries as preventable causes of death among NYC children under the age of 13.

The full report can be accessed here.

###

#037-16

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez: pressoffice@health.nyc.gov