Home Safety Devices Worth the Effort

Researchers quantify efficacy for the first time

Monday, April 11, 2011

If you’ve ever wondered exactly how much safer your home would be for small children by using safety devices such as stair gates and cabinet locks, researchers for the first time have a precise number for you.

Seventy percent.

About 2,800 U.S. children die each year from preventable injuries in the home, and millions more are treated in emergency departments. A study just released in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that injuries to children at home dropped dramatically when homes had safety measures in place such as stairway gates, cabinet locks, electrical outlet covers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, safe storage for knives and other sharp objects, and hot water heaters set below 120 degrees.

No previous study had actually quantified the benefits of reducing exposure to injury hazards in the home when such measures were installed and maintained by researchers. Oddly enough, another study in the United Kingdom had indicated children might actually be at greater risk when parents received safety counseling and were given reduced-cost safety devices. However, only a small fraction of households had safety devices installed by the researchers.

The new study, conducted by researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, meticulously documented two groups of families with newborns, with one group having carefully installed and maintained safety devices in their homes. The research team found over the course of two years that, with the number of hazards significantly reduced, related injuries requiring medical attention were 70 percent lower for children in the group whose homes had such devices installed and maintained.

This is the interim report for the study, which has now been expanded to include groups of low-income, first-time mothers whose children are considered to be at greater risk.

“The home environment is the most common location of injury for younger children,” said the study’s lead investigator, Kieran J. Phelan, MD, of the James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “However, parents may not have the time, training, or resources to obtain and install the best safety products. Considering the millions of trips to the emergency room and doctors’ office visits each year for injuries in children, our data show that a tremendous amount of pain and suffering could be avoided and millions of dollars in healthcare costs saved if a standard set of home safety measures were implemented on a broad scale.”

In addition to researchers at Cincinnati Children’s, the study included work by Bruce Lanphear,MD, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. The study was supported by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of just eight children’s hospitals named to the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Report’s 2010-11 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is ranked #1 for digestive disorders and highly ranked for its expertise in pulmonology, cancer, neonatology, heart and heart surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, diabetes and endocrinology, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for quality and transformation work by Leapfrog, The Joint Commission, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and by hospitals and health organizations with which it works globally. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org.

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656, jim.feuer@cchmc.org