Thursday, June 20, 2013

Child Safety

By Bill King, Dr.P.H.

The Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama handles more than 32,000 telephone calls every year concerning toxic exposures from household products, drugs, and even biologic and environmental hazards. Undoubtedly, the center is a well-known and well-used resource for medical doctors, veterinarians, other health care providers and the general public.

But many people are unaware that the Regional Poison Control Center is also just one of several related departments dedicated to the health and safety of children. All of these programs operate within the division known as the Southeast Child Safety Institute. This division provides research, education and community services to prevent childhood injuries.  Its programs also provide support to other professionals and agencies statewide who are advocates for the health and safety of children.

Here is a rundown of the Institute’s departments, what they do, and the managers to contact for more information:

Pediatric Health Information Line (Telephone Triage): This after hours, triage service provides a central point of contact for parents needing help in dealing with an ailing child. It contracts with over 300 practicing pediatricians throughout the state, the Jefferson County Health Department and other medical referral sources. Operating around the clock, seven days a week, it served nearly 90,000 callers last year. Tanya Crews and Jerri Phillips are co-supervisors. For information, call 205-638-6337.

Children’s Connection Line: This referral and consultation service connects families to pediatricians, specialists, car seat installation appointments and other vital services. It handled nearly 2,500 calls last year, and provided more than 1,000 consultations on child passenger safety, including car seat help for special needs children. Lisa Hanvey is the nurse manager. For information, call 205-638-6917.

Alabama Safe Kids: This educational service focuses on preventing unintentional injury to children. It focuses largely on motor vehicle safety, but it also works to prevent falls, poisonings, drowning, burns and choking. Alabama Safe Kids conducts car seat check-up clinics and child passenger safety certification courses for fire, police and other agencies. For example, last year, the program conducted 33 clinics at Children’s for checking car seats, and installed 921 of these crucial safety devices throughout the state. It offers educational programs on child safety and teen driving. Marie Crew is the state coordinator. For information, call 205-638-6339.

Kohl’s ThinkFirst Alabama: This comprehensive injury prevention program helps children develop safety habits that minimize their risk for brain, spinal cord and other traumatic injuries. It provides programs for elementary, middle and high school ages and provides an introduction to brain and spinal cord anatomy along with safety education for vehicles, water activities, bicycles, sports, weapons and recreation. Each year, the program strives to reach 10,000 children through statewide school presentations. Last year, it also provided concussion evaluation education to 77 coaches, trainers and program assistants. It also supported the Teen Driving Summit and fitted 350 bike helmets. Julie Cole Farmer is the state coordinator. For information, call 205-638-2729.

Regional Poison Control Center: This information hotline is one of the few services at Children’s that deals with adults as well as children. Last year, the center handled 32,545 calls, and provided more than 75,000 follow-up calls to assure appropriate treatment and outcomes. The center is supported by Children’s of Alabama and a long standing partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s Caring Foundation.  Ann Slattery is clinical supervisor for the center. For information, call 205-638-9201.

In addition, the Child Safety Institute distributes a variety of printed materials, including booster seat brochures, car seat brochures in English and Spanish, injury prevention handbooks, poison prevention materials and bicycle safety brochures. Our Alabama Safe Kids program sponsored the re-printing of recent American Academy of Pediatrics car seat guidelines, which are distributed statewide to numerous agencies, law enforcement and pediatricians. More than 90,000 pieces of educational material were distributed last year through the institute.

Bill King is a pharmacist, clinical toxicologist and epidemiologist. He holds a doctorate in public health from UAB, and serves as director of the Regional Poison Control Center and divisional director of the Southeast Child Safety Institute at Children's of Alabama. He is a Professor of Pediatrics, UAB School of Medicine and also serves as adjunct faculty in Epidemiology (UAB School of Public Health) and Pharmacy (McWhorter School of Pharmacy). His research interests include the descriptive and clinical epidemiology and prevention of childhood injuries. For more information, call 205-638-6334.

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