OBJECTIVES: This study was designed to determine the incidence and causes of injury hospitalizations/fatalities to children less than 15 years of age. SETTING: Central Orange County, California. DESIGN: Cases were identified through a population based hospital and coroner's office surveillance system. SUBJECTS: The sample consisted of children 0-14 years of age who were residents of the study area and sustained an injury between 1 January 1991 and 31 December 1992 resulting in hospitalization or death. RESULTS: Over the two year study period, 1361 children 0-14 years of age were hospitalized or died as a result of injury. This represents a crude annual injury rate of 318/100,000 children. Rates were highest for children less than 5 years--this age group sustained the highest rate for eight of nine specific causes of injury. Falls were the leading cause of hospitalizations for all ages. Pedestrian injuries were more common among children 1-4 years and 5-9 years, while bicycle injuries were more common among older children. CONCLUSIONS: This study, one of the first population based studies in a Southern California urban/suburban community, found lower rates of injury hospitalization than studies conducted over a decade ago. These lower rates may reflect changes in hospitalization trends and/or injury prevention programs. Comparisons with more recent studies in inner city communities in the north east also show regional differences in rates and causes. Injury prevention efforts should particularly address the higher injury rates among children less than 5 years of age. This study also illustrates the need for regional and local data to guide injury control.
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