The study, published in the latest edition of Injury Prevention, suggests that as pedestrians, children are less able to adapt to changes in cities due to new housing construction and increasing income.
Specifically, researchers looked at the city of Edmonton, which has experienced considerable growth in recent years, due to the booming oil and gas industry. Between 1995 and 2005, the city saw a 15% increase in the size of its population and more than a 33% increase in its per capita income, adjusted for inflation.
“This growth in population has been accompanied by both sprawling suburban development but also the gentrification of some inner city areas,” says Niko Yiannakoulias, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences at McMaster University. “While economic growth brings greater wealth and renewal to cities, it may pose some risks to children who are unable to adapt to the changing transportation environment that accompanies this growth.”
Using data collected by Alberta Health Services, researchers looked at cases involving children 18 years of age or younger, who were admitted to emergency departments in Edmonton between 1996 and 2007.
Over the study period, the incidence of emergency department-reported child pedestrian injury appeared to decline slightly. However, from 2000 and 2007 cases of severe injuries rose in low income neighbourhoods, particularly among girls.
The research suggests this could be related to the type of housing development in these areas, which often include multifamily dwellings and may be more dense. As a result, children are exposed to many more cars and trucks on the roads and an influx of new residents unfamiliar with the local traffic environment.
“When we have a better understanding of rapid urban growth we can work towards better injury prevention policies,” says Yiannakoulias. “We need to understand more fully the short and long-term consequences of urban change on motor vehicle-related injury and, in particular, the effects on marginalized people and places.”
The research was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.
McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 140,000 alumni in 128 countries.
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