Changing state of pediatric injuries in South Africa: An analysis of surveillance data from a Pediatric Emergency Department from 2007 to 2011

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Abstract

Background.

Pediatric injuries are associated with significant morbidity and mortality, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Data to characterize the cause and risk factors associated with childhood injuries in low- and middle-income countries are very scarce. The aim of this study is to describe the cause of pediatric injuries and their possible changes between 2007 and 2011 using hospital-based data in Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods.

Data from injured children <13 years of age who presented to the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital's emergency department in 2007 and 2011 were captured in Childsafe South Africa's trauma surveillance system. Poisson regression was used to assess changes in rates of injury between 2007 and 2011 in terms of demographics, geographic location of injury, type of injury mechanism, injury severity, and anatomic region of the sustained injury.

Results.

In total, 14,915 injured children with 15,414 injuries presented to Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in 2007 and 2011. The mean age was 5.01 ± 3.5 years and 60.3% were male. Common mechanisms of injury included falls (n = 6,036; 40%), road traffic injuries (n = 1,939; 13%), burns (n = 1,885; 12.6%), and assault (n = 640; 4.3%). Comparing 2011 to 2007, the incidence of road traffic injuries has decreased by 7% (P < .05) while burn injuries increased 11% (P < .05). Seventy-three percent (73%) of injuries that presented to Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital occurred in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, where many informal settlements exist.

Conclusion.

These epidemiologic findings suggest that while road traffic injuries decreased and burn injuries increased at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, there is a need for data that are population-based and not hospital based. If we could describe injuries accurately within the pediatric population of a city such as Cape Town, we could in turn use this data to strengthen the need for targeted interventions to address risk factors for pediatric injuries. Despite this, hospital-based data remain a powerful tool to study injuries in low and middle-income countries.

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