What kills kids?

The CDC has released its National Vital Statistics Report for 2010. For the first time in a long time, homicide is not in the top 15 causes of death for all people in the US. That’s good news. I’m a pediatrician, though, and I want to focus on what kills kids. You may be surprised. Let’s start with 1-4 year olds:

2Congenital Malformations495
5Heart Disease156

Any reader of this blog knows the number one killer of kids is accidents. Car accidents alone killed 444 1-4 year olds, which is still almost enough to earn the #2 spot on its own. But look at #3. The number three killer of children is homicide. It’s assault.

Here’s 5-14 year olds:

3Congenital Malformations292

Accidents, of course, win again. Car accidents in this group killed 895 5-14 year olds, making it – alone – almost the number one killer of children in that age group. Homicide was #5. Suicide was #4.

I think it’s important to talk about these figures. I work in a children’s hospital, and I know legions of people who work every year to save kids lives. I think it’s one of the most worthy causes there is. But I rarely see massive campaigns and fund-raising drives to prevent assault and homicide. I don’t see many for suicide. I don’t see ribbons for safer cars. Yet these are the things that kill children in droves. More small children were killed in assaults than for all cancers combined. When you get into the 15-24 year old range, accidents (especially cars) are #1, homicide is #2, and suicide is #3.

While I’m on a rant, influenza and pneumonia was the #6 killer of 1-4 year olds and the #10 killer of 5-14 year olds, so it wouldn’t hurt to try and focus a bit more on better vaccination, either.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would love to see our efforts reflect reality a little bit better. We know what kills kids. We see the results every year. Yet we continue to focus on other things. Here are data. Here are what kill children. We could save more lives by focusing on car accidents, suicide prevention, and homicide prevention than almost anything else. Let’s act on that.

UPDATE: Fixed some numbers I screwed up when transcribing.

UPDATE#2: I posted the number of deaths, not the rates. Corrected that.

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