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Accidents will happen, but some happen less often after child-safety measures are introduced, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (cdc) in Atlanta.

For example, following the introduction of "child-proof"--and frequently "adult-proof"--caps on medication in 1972, the number of deaths due to ingestion of pain-killers or anti-fever agents over a five-year period dropped by 41 percent in all age groups.

And in New York City, 50 percent fewer children were injured in falls from windows after the city health department provided free, easily installed window guards to families with young children who lived in high-risk areas of the city. The number of children who died from falls declined 35 percent between 1973, when the program began, and 1975.

In Honolulu, legislation that requires swimming-pool owners to erect fences to discourage stray swimmers from taking a dip seems to provide an effective way of lowering the number of accidental drownings. The rate of swimming-pool fatalities is less than half that of cities with comparable pool-to-house ratios and no analogous legislation.

These safety measures have several common elements, according to cdc They modify the environment to reduce the hazard or eliminate it entirely; they require little in the way of behavioral change by the potential victim; and they are relatively inexpensive and simple, so that both the public and manufacturers readily accept them.

But another national survey offers somewhat less cheering news. After many years of concern about the amount of lead to which children are exposed, federal officials have now provided the first national estimates of the blood-lead levels of Americans. Based on findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1976-1980, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that an estimated 4 percent of the children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years show excessive amounts of lead in their blood. More black children than white register this condition: 12.2 percent of the black children, compared to 2 percent of the white children.

In an effort to consolidate and focus medical services for "high-risk" adolescents and young people, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is providing $12 million in grants to 20 projects around the country, including both public and private health-care facilities, universities, and clinics.

The projects will attempt to demonstrate whether medical services for the 12-to-24-year-old group--the only one in the U.S. with rising death rates--can be sustained and improved during a time of declining public funding for medical services.

To receive the funds, each project had to show that it would seek to aid young people who live in communities with unusually high rates of venereal disease, pregnancy, substance abuse, accidents, homicide, suicide, and mental illness.

--Susan Walton

Vol. 01, Issue 36

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