Child deaths of undetermined intent: An analysis of circumstances using Illinois Violent Death Reporting System data

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

There is little information available about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of children aged 0 to 14 years in which the manner of death is of undetermined intent.

METHODS

We analyzed data collected in the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System to describe victim demographics, location of injury, seasonality, day of week, and circumstances surrounding the victims’ deaths.

RESULTS

From 2005 to 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, 192 cases were identified of children aged 0 to 14 years, in which the manner of death was of undetermined intent. The majority of cases were younger than 1 year (81%), male (62%), and non-Hispanic black (66%); occurred in the City of Chicago (65%); and also occurred most frequently during the months of May (15%) and July (13%) and on Sunday (19%). Circumstances of note were having information on the location of death available for the victim (90%); scene investigation was not performed/unknown/not documented (81%); and the victim not presenting with red petechiae (84%). By ethnicity, a lower proportion of Hispanic victims had parental drug information available compared with non-Hispanic victims (17% and 40%, respectively; p = 0.017); Hispanic victims were more likely than non-Hispanic victims to have a documented acute illness at the time of injury leading to death (57% and 33%, respectively; p = 0.015). The availability of scene information and the successful contact of one or both parents of the victim following the victim’s death varied by location.

CONCLUSIONS

No public health surveillance system exists for the collection of this type of death. There is not enough information provided to develop an effective intervention. The systematic, thorough collection of information surrounding these deaths is necessary to pinpoint possible contributing mechanisms of death for these children.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Epidemiologic, level IV.

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