“In our business, injuries are not accidents and can often be prevented,” says EDC’s Chris Miara, associate director of the Children’s Safety Network (CSN), a national resource center for child and adolescent injury and violence prevention. For 15 years, CSN has assisted state and local agencies in building capacity to develop, implement, and evaluate their prevention efforts in such areas as motor vehicle, bicycle, and playground safety; poison and fire hazards; and child abuse and neglect. In September, CSN was awarded $1.5 million a year to continue its work for another five years.
Founded by EDC’s Susan Gallagher, now CSN senior advisor, the center began at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1986 as the Childhood Injury Prevention Resource Center. The national center moved in 1990 from Harvard to EDC, and, in 1991, with funds from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, it became the CSN National Injury and Violence Prevention Resource Center.
Key to the CSN mission is helping state health departments strengthen their injury prevention programs. When the director of the Florida Injury Prevention Program was turned down for a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she turned to CSN to help develop a statewide plan to address injuries. The plan focused not just on how to address specific injuries, but on how to build and maintain an effective state program. Florida officials credit CSN’s help for a later successful CDC application, and many states use Florida’s plan as a model.
Working with the national group of state injury prevention directors, CSN helped devise a process that brings a team of professionals into a state to assess its injury prevention program. The team examines a state’s prevention infrastructure, analyzes its collection and use of injury data, and reviews interventions and policies. CSN has lent its expertise in 19 state assessments.
A typical day for a CSN staffer includes responding to phone calls from state health departments and others around the country regarding myriad injury-related subjects: “How much money could our state save if we made booster seats available to low-income families?” or “How can we get policymakers to understand the value of our program?” or “Can you train our local agencies to conduct an evaluation?” or “Where can I find model legislation addressing youth and all-terrain vehicles?”
“We may not be the ones who strap on the bike helmets or install the safety seats ourselves,” says Miara, “but we help state health agencies implement effective, practical strategies that prevent injuries to children all across the country.”
Originally published on September 1, 2006