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Review Time for Idaho Child Deaths?

February 6, 2012

BOISE, Idaho - Statistics show that Idaho's infant and child death rates have been generally higher than those in surrounding states - but no one has taken a close look as to why. LeAnn Simmons, executive director of Idaho Voices for Children, says the Gem State should reinstate child fatality reviews to explore any trends and come up with ways to prevent child deaths.

More than 600 Idaho children have died during the past three years. About 55 percent of them could have been prevented, according to an initial assessment of state statistics from Idaho Kids Count, which is calling for reinstatement of child fatality reviews. The Gem State stopped doing reviews in 2000 when a governor's executive order for them expired.

Simmons says the reviews are typically done by volunteers.

"We need to look more closely at trends and system failure and make recommendations to prevent further deaths."

In other states, the reviews focus on preventing accidents - also the leading cause of death for Idaho children. Simmons says prevention could include promoting the use and correct installation of car seats, distributing information to prevent drowning, and driver-safety campaigns for teens.

Idaho's infant and child death rates have been trending higher than other states in the region, Simmons says. While some deaths are connected to birth defects and cancer, she adds, most other deaths could be prevented.

"The second-leading cause of death, starting as young as 10 years old, increasingly has been suicide."

Idaho Kids Count estimates it would cost about $45,000 a year for child fatality reviews in Idaho.

Details about Idaho child deaths are available at http://bit.ly/Aq2CQ8.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID