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Environmental design helped Sweden achieve lowest childhood injury mortality in the world
Detail: A recently published study, titled “Why does Sweden have the Lowest Childhood Injury Mortality in the World? The Roles of Architecture and Public pre-School Services” in the Journal of Public Health Policy, showed that among other factors, urban planning, social welfare systems, and safety measures, played an important role in significantly reducing childhood injury mortality in Sweden by reducing transport-related injuries and drowning.

Researcher Bjarne Jansson and colleagues analyzed trends in childhood (0-14) injury mortality in Sweden between 1966-2001. The most frequent external causes of death were transport injury (48%), drowning (14%), homicide (5.8%), fire (5%), and fall (2.7%). The first half of the study period (1966-1981) recorded an average mortality of 13.0. The second half of the study period recorded a mortality of 5.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. There was a statistically significant decrease in mortality among all subgroups of children in both sexes.

The researchers attributed the decrease in injury mortality to both active behavior-oriented measures promoted by child safety programs, and passive built-in measures such as separation of cycle lanes or structural changes such as the expansion of pre-school services and organized leisure activities. The nation-wide program for child safety that created awareness about home and product safety, safety behavior in traffic environments, fire safety, poisoning control, electrical equipments, and swimming pools among other issues, showed reduction in injury mortality after a three year period. The Swedish ‘Million’ Housing Program (1965-75) that embraced modernist planning and functionalist architecture, separated cars from pedestrian activities and children’s play areas. According to the researchers this reduced the risk of traffic related injuries by two-thirds in traffic-segregated areas. In addition, separation of cycle lanes from cars and trucks in the 1970s, and recruiting older pupils as traffic path-walk guards for younger school children contributed to reducing the risk of injuries in children. Transport-related fatalities in Sweden fell together with the expansion of public pre-school services in the 1970s. The authors conclude that Sweden’s achievement in reducing child injury mortality through a combination of policies and measures across diverse sectors such as urban planning and environmental design, health, education, social welfare, have important lessons for other nations.
Source: Journal of Public Health Policy, 27, 146-165, 2006
Date: December 29 2006