12:52am Thursday 16 July 2020

Researchers Seek to ALTER Risk of Fall Injuries

The event, run by the University of Guelph’s Child Development Research Unit (CDRU) and Guelph Public Health, will take place at Old Quebec Street Mall in downtown Guelph on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Parents and caregivers can learn about falling hazards at home for children and about a new prevention strategy to reduce children’s risk of fall injuries. More than 800 children visit emergency rooms each year in the Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin region after suffering fall injuries at home.

Prof. Barbara Morrongiello is CDRU director and holds a Canada Research Chair in Child and Youth Injury Prevention. She is particularly concerned about children’s injuries from falls.

“Young children, those one to four years old, are what we call ‘head heavy,’ and serious head injuries like concussions can occur when they fall,” she said.

“This is especially a concern if they fall from a height, such as a bed or a couch, or down the stairs. Falls are the leading cause of child visits to the emergency department. We want parents to be aware of the potential seriousness of these injuries and to help them take steps to prevent these from happening.”

Attendees will learn about a new injury prevention program developed by Morrongiello, called “ALTER.”

“ALTER is a new injury prevention strategy for parents to use at home,” she said.

“It is easy to do and remember, and this campaign will publicize this strategy so all parents in our community know how to use it to reduce their child’s risk of injuries at home. ALTER was developed as part of a research project conducted at the CDRU. It was found to increase supervision skills, and parents just loved how easy it was to do.”

Mike Corbett, a PhD candidate in applied social psychology, helped develop the program. For him, the issue is personal.

“Injuries can inflict trauma not just on a child but on an entire family,” he said.

“As a parent of two young girls, I am very concerned. Head and neck injuries are the most common kind of injury resulting from falls seen in emergency departments. I know you can’t prevent all falls, but I firmly believe you can reduce the chances of serious injury from a fall. This new ALTER program will help parents to do this.”

Organizers are asking parents and children to help with the campaign by becoming models for it. Professional makeup artists will apply “wounds” and bandages to children aged three to six for photos to be used on information websites and posters and in presentations.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (makeup and bandaging 10-10:30 a.m.). Parents can speak to injury prevention experts, health-care and emergency workers and public health professionals about protecting children. Also attending will be Ross Kirkconnell, director of the Guelph Family Health Team, and representatives from Safe Kids Canada and Public Health.

Guelph family physician Dr. Angela Lightle works with families to create a safe and healthy environment for children.

“Educating parents about safety hazards and the risk of injuries related to falls is an important part of my work,” she said.

“Every ER visit we can prevent is a success story.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or [email protected]; or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982, or [email protected]

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