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October 25, 2014

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Clark County sees decline in child deaths

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Aida Ahmed

A young girl leaves a giant stuffed animal at the makeshift memorial set up for an 11-year-old girl who died at the intersection of Ann Road and Pebble Rock Drive Friday afternoon after being hit by a school bus.

Child fatalities in Clark County have steadily declined over the past five years, according to a UNLV report released Monday.

Since 2006, Clark County has commissioned the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy at UNLV to release a report on child fatalities due to five causes: natural, accidental, suicide, homicide and undetermined. The UNLV report helps Clark County officials focus on educational programs to prevent future child deaths in Las Vegas.

“Keeping track of this data helps to drive down the number of child fatalities because it allows community partners to work collaboratively to target outreach and education focused on injury prevention to prevent these deaths,” Tara Phebus, the institute’s interim executive director, said in a statement.

The Clark County Coroner’s Office referred child death cases to a team of UNLV researchers, Clark County and School District officials. The team reviewed death cases of children ages 20 weeks to 17 years, categorized their manner of death and compared the 2012 fatality figures with data from the past five years.

Here are the major findings from the report:

• The number of child fatalities in Clark County has declined by 29 percent over the past five years. Overall, child deaths declined from 311 deaths in 2008 to 222 deaths in 2012.

• The majority of child deaths in 2012 were from natural causes (127), followed by accidental deaths (66), undetermined (16), homicide (8) and suicide (5). The majority of deaths — 59 percent — occurred in children under age 1. Half of the “undetermined” deaths occurred under age 1, and happened while the baby was asleep. UNLV researchers recommended there be more safe infant sleep education for new parents.

• Only two causes of death saw an increase from 2011 to 2012: Accidental deaths shot up by 78 percent and undetermined deaths increased by 60 percent. The other three causes of death all declined between 18 percent (natural) and 69 percent (suicides).

• Accidental deaths nearly doubled, from 37 deaths in 2011 to 66 deaths in 2012. The 66 child deaths from accidents is the highest on record since 2008. Nevada children’s death rate from accidents — 11.3 deaths per 100,000 — is higher than the national average of 8.5 deaths per 100,000.

• The top three causes of child deaths due to injury is suffocation/strangulation, motor vehicle accidents and poisoning or overdose. Suffocation and strangulation deaths increased from 15 cases in 2011 to 23 cases in 2012, the highest number in five years.

• The number of child deaths from motor vehicle accidents nearly doubled, from 10 deaths in 2011 to 19 deaths in 2012.

• Deaths from poisoning and overdose also nearly doubled, from 9 deaths in 2011 to 16 deaths in 2012.

• Children who died from injuries caused by weapons declined by 76 percent, from 30 deaths in 2011 to a record low of seven deaths in 2012.

• There were 9 children who drowned in 2012 — more than half of them were between 1 and 4 years old. UNLV researchers recommended more drowning prevention education, particularly among parents with toddlers.

• Deaths from suicide, which saw a spike in 2011, declined to average levels in 2012. There were four child suicides in 2008, four suicides in 2009, seven suicides in 2010, 16 suicides in 2011 and five suicides in 2012. Nearly 60 percent of the child suicides in 2012 were teenagers ages 16 and 17. The majority of victims — 56 percent — used firearms as their method of suicide. UNLV researchers recommended expanding firearm safety campaigns to include messages about preventing access to children with mental health issues or those with prior suicide attempts.

• Homicidal deaths are at a record low, from 21 deaths in 2008 to eight deaths in 2012. However, for the first time in three years, the majority of all child homicides in Clark County in 2012 were black children. The percentage of black children who died from homicide spiked from 30 percent of all deaths in 2011 to more than 60 percent of all deaths in 2012.

• More than two-thirds of firearm homicide victims in the past five years were either Hispanic or black. A quarter of firearm homicide victims were white. In 2012, most of the firearm homicides occurred in the northern valley, in particular, where there were three child homicide deaths from firearms in ZIP code 89115. Although about a third of firearm homicides in the past five years involved gang activity, only about a fifth of victims were gang members.

• Most natural deaths were due to premature births (57), followed by congenital defects (32) and chronic illnesses (24). The number of deaths from premature births has declined by nearly half, from 106 deaths in 2008 to 57 deaths in 2012. One child died last year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, down from three deaths in 2008.

• Nearly a quarter of all child deaths in 2012 was preceded by some kind of involvement by Child Protective Services. Fifty-three children died in 2012, despite having a history of CPS involvement. Most of those children died of natural or accidental causes; five children died from homicide. There were 10 child deaths due to child abuse or neglect, representing a little more than 4 percent of all child deaths in 2012. UNLV researchers recommended more child abuse and neglect prevention.

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