Cabinet to vote on child accident prevention plan

Health Ministry's comprehensive program has been prepared in coordination with the World Health Organization and the European Union.

By
February 15, 2012 23:12
3 minute read.
Women on see-saw with child

Women on see-saw with child 390. (photo credit: illustrative photo/Reuters)

 
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The cabinet will vote Sunday on a Health Ministry plan to establish a comprehensive national program for preventing children’s injuries and deaths from accidents.

The program has been prepared in coordination with the World Health Organization and the European Union, which are involved in the world effort to save children from unintentional harm.

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Every day, an average of 500 Israeli children (about 120,000 a year) are taken to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of injuries ranging from those caused on the roads to falling, poisoning, burns, drowning and many others in and near the home and school.

An average of 24,000 children are hospitalized with injuries, and 144 children are killed in accidents each year.

The plan was publicly announced on Wednesday at the First Child Safety Conference organized by Beterem (the National Center for Child Safety and Health). Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman disclosed that Beterem has been made his ministry’s official adviser on preventing children’s accidents. A few hours after it closed, the ministry issued a document on the national plan, which will be put up for a vote by the cabinet on Sunday.

The all-day conference was attended by an impressive 1,000 doctors, nurses, engineers, educators, local authority representatives and others at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. The one foreign guest was Katie Carr, CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, which serves as the roof organization that coordinates child safety efforts around the world and of which Beterem is a member.

“Accidents are not a matter of destiny nor are they predetermined,” Beterem CEO Orly Silbinger said. “We are all responsible for the safety of our children – professionals, caretakers, parents, education and health systems and the government.

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The purpose of the conference is to create public discussion and shed light on new aspects of child safety. The goal is to turn child safety into a relevant and daily matter for decisionmakers, news outlets, and to allocate more resources for prevention.”

The plan, which will have a NIS 1.9 million budget to launch over the next two years, was unveiled by Health Ministry director-general Prof.

Ronni Gamzu. He said that thousands of child years of life are lost every year, and besides the personal and social cost, the economic cost is huge.

Seven ministries, said Gamzu, will participate in a coordinated effort that will include local authorities, public organizations and private companies. “I know from experience that it is hard to push through programs that involve many interests, but we can do it,” he said.

The aim is that by 2020, the number of children’s accidents and injuries will be reduced by 35 percent. Gamzu said that cultural, economic and social differences are responsible for much higher accident rates affecting children in the haredi and Arab sectors. The plan aims to reduce the gap in accidents between the Arab and Jewish sector by 25% in 2020.

The annual cost to the economy totals NIS 1.6 billion – or 0.26% of the gross national product.

After approval by the government, the plan will be budgeted, mapped out and coordinated by an interministry team, while an official national program will be launched in a year.

The four health funds will receive benefits for promoting the aims of the program as well, while media cooperation and informational campaigns will be used to spread the word.

The cost of treating and rehabilitating the children are only a part of the picture, as parents are often unable to work while taking care of them, adding to the loss to the economy.

The ministry’s plan notes that the government of Sweden managed to reduce the toll from children’s accidents by an impressive 80% through prevention efforts.

According to the European Child Safety Alliance, if the rate of injury death in Israel were reduced to the level of the Netherlands, one of the safest countries in Europe, an estimated 90 children’s lives would be saved.

Mayor Nir Barkat said that despite predictions of “tens of lives lost every year” due to the introduction of the Jerusalem Light Rail, no children have been killed or injured since the trams began running at the end of August. Credit for the safety record goes to an educational effort by the municipality in 93% of kindergartens and schools – secular, modern- Orthodox, haredi and Arab – to teach children in an enjoyable way how the light rail operates and how to avoid danger, he said.

A feature on the Beterem conference will appear on The Jerusalem Post’s Health Page on Sunday, February 26.

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