Firearms widespread, persistent role in death of children, teens in U.S.

America lost 20,360 children and teens in 2016 — 60 percent of them to preventable injuries, a new study shows. More than 4,0 of them died in motor vehicle crashes, though efforts and better trauma care have cut the death rate of young people from such crashes in half in less than two decades. Meanwhile, firearms—the No. 2 cause of death in youth—claimed the lives of more than 3,100 children and teens in 2016, according to the new findings from a University of Michigan team.

America lost 20,360 children and teens in 2016 — 60 percent of them to preventable injuries, a new study shows.

More than 4,100 of them died in motor vehicle crashes, though prevention efforts and better trauma care have cut the death rate of young people from such crashes in half in less than two decades.

Meanwhile, firearms—the No. 2 cause of death in youth—claimed the lives of more than 3,100 children and teens in 2016, according to the new findings from a University of Michigan team.

That’s about eight children a day, according to their special report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Unlike vehicle crashes, the rate of firearm-related death for those ages 1 to 19 has stayed around the same for nearly the past two decades, the analysis shows. That rate is more than 36 times as high as the average rate across 12 other high-income countries.

U-M says that the new study, by members of the U-M Injury Prevention Center, was done using publicly available data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WONDER database of information from death certificates.

It’s the first time all causes of child and adolescent death have been tallied by both mechanism and intent, and that rates of these causes of death over time have been calculated for all the  causes.

Cancer, which accounted for more than 1,800 deaths of those ages 1 to 19, comes in third place, and its death rate has dropped since the start of the study period. Suffocation—mainly suicides by hanging and other —was fourth, and is on the rise.

Those causes are followed by drowning, drug overdoses/poisonings and birth defects, each with just under 1,000 deaths and steady decreases in death rates over the last 17 years.

Lead author Rebecca Cunningham, director of the U-M Injury Prevention Center and
professor of emergency medicine, says that firearm-related deaths occur at about the same rate in urban, rural and suburban settings.

“Firearm deaths of children and adolescents are an ‘everybody’ problem, not a problem for just certain population,” she said. “Homicides account for 60 percent of those deaths, suicide about 35 percent, unintentional or accidental injuries about 1 percent and mass shootings slightly less than 1 percent.

“By using a data-driven approach to studying these deaths, I hope we can guide the U.S. to apply our resources to help us understand what we can do to prevent these deaths across the country.”



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