Toolkit aims to prevent the leading cause of death for kids in Alberta

A generous financial gift from Forbes Bros Ltd. is an investment in childhood injury prevention and instilling safety as a value.

Donna Richardson - 22 July 2019

It can happen in the blink of an eye. One minute your child is right beside you, and before you know it, she has fallen down the stairs. Sadly, 45% of all hospital admissions for children age 0-14 in Canada were the result of a fall. In addition, preventable injuries, such as drowning, choking and falls are among the leading causes of death in children.

Despite these sad statistics, there is a gap in our understanding about how to prevent kids from getting hurt. "There is very little research so far on kids and injury. Most research is focused on individual injury topics," says to Kathy Belton, associate director of the Injury Prevention Centre in the School of Public Health. For instance, there are targeted initiatives aimed at preventing brain injury, falls, and so on.

Now that's about to change because of a commitment from Forbes Bros Ltd. The Alberta based utility construction contractor's financial gift will allow the Injury Prevention Centre to develop a prevention program for use in Alberta elementary schools. The program will be the first of its kind in Canada

"This work will broaden the research done to date by looking at injury with a particular demographic: children," says Belton.

Injury experts generally agree that prevention efforts need to start when children are in elementary school. "We want to explore how to get kids to assess their risks. Ultimately, we want to reduce the incidence of catastrophic life altering injuries," explains Belton.

"Risky play is important for emotional, cognitive and social development in children," says Natalie Malowany, an MPH student who is working on the project. "It is important to encourage them to be creative and to take risks, but not to the extent that they experience life altering injuries."

Forbes Bros Ltd. was intrigued by an initiative that would educate and shift the attitudes of children about safety. With employees across North America, safety in the work place is a priority for the company.

"We have four guiding values: 'We Work Hard, We Work Safe, We Deliver Solutions, and We Are Family,'" explains Brenda Madley, director, health safety and environment at Forbes Bros. "The toolkit aligns with all four of these values; it delivers an injury prevention solution to keep children safe."

"If we can improve children's skills in hazard identification and management, we can reduce needless injuries and deaths to children in our community. We will benefit by getting a workforce where safety is more deeply instilled as a value."

Since the Injury Prevention Centre has experience in developing physical activity guidelines for Alberta Education, Belton knows that curriculum design can be a complex process. "Working in partnership with teachers and Alberta Education will be critical to successfully developing and introducing an effective toolkit," she says.

Belton says, "A lot of health curriculum focuses on building skills, such as learning about your body and its parts. But, we don't talk about what happens if I hurt my brain and how does that affect what I can do."

There are four phases to the prevention toolkit project, which is to be piloted in select Alberta schools in 2021. Once implemented, the prevention toolkit will allow students to explore injury in different settings, and use age appropriate activities to internalize learning.

"We're grateful to Forbes Bros Ltd. for their gift towards this initiative. They are investing in the next generation of workers," Belton says.

"From our stand point, we want this generation of kids to look at safety with a different attitude. We want them to think, 'If I do this safely, then I can keep doing it my whole life.'"