The cabinet will vote Sunday on a Health Ministry plan to establish a
comprehensive national program for preventing children’s injuries and deaths
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
ministry’s plan notes that the government of Sweden managed to reduce the toll
from children’s accidents by an impressive 80% through prevention
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
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