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Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies

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Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies (CChIPS)  (The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

Research Focus

In the mid 1990s, pediatrician and engineer Flaura Koplin Winston began to see an increasing number of child airbag injuries and fatalities, and realized with growing horror that deploying airbags posed a significant danger to young children. She and others began working with industry to improve airbag design, with the goal of reducing the threat.  

In 1997, Winston founded the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. Since 2005, it has hosted the Center for Childhood Injury Prevention Studies, or CChIPS.

The center works with industry partners to conduct research that will inform development of new product designs and other strategies aimed at improving child safety. Injury is the leading cause of death and acquired disability for children ages one to 19. Among those ages five to 19, an estimated 68 percent of injury deaths result from motor vehicle crashes. Moreover, children are a population with injury risks unique to their physiology.

Children arent just small adults,” Winston says. “We have to approach this from a child developmental perspective--from their biomechanical and physical development to their brain, social and psychological development. Whos getting hurt -- and why? We try to answer these questions in ways that will produce solutions.

While traffic injury prevention and treatment has been the primary focus of the center for more than a decade, researchers also examine other areas such as sports injuries.

 Research Outcomes

The center worked with State Farm Insurance Companies to establish Partners for Child Passenger Safety (CHOP), a motor vehicle crash surveillance system specific to crashes involving children. One of its initial findings showed that older children were less likely to use the appropriate restraints for their age, increasing the threat of injury or death.

It began a public campaign through the media, legislative efforts, and the public health community to increase booster seat awareness. By 2001, its research showed a rapid increase in booster seat use among children between the ages of four and eight. At the start of the study, only 51 percent children enrolled were correctly restrained at the time of a crash. By the end of the study period, the percentage had risen to 78 percent. And by 2007, most U.S. children through the age of eight were using child safety restraints.

As part of this work, CHOPs injury center also has been involved in upgrading 48 state laws and two federal laws regarding booster seats and has created a website in English and Spanish providing child traffic safety information.

Center researchers also have conducted research to find out why parents fail to use seat belt positioning booster seats, and developed a video based on what they learned to encourage booster seat use.

The same video, originally developed for American parents, also was effective when dubbed in Mandarin and aired in China. Booster seat use among the study participants in Beijing increased from 15 percent to 85 percent.

The center uses a multidisciplinary approach, drawing upon a team of experts from epidemiology, biostatistics, engineering, behavioral sciences, outreach, public policy and public health.

The centers biomechanical engineers, for example, conduct research to help the automotive industry develop more accurate pediatric test crash dummies based on more than a decade of research into real-world accidents using innovative research methods. In one study, engineers partnered with clinicians in CHOPs pediatric intensive care unit, using sensors to study the forces applied to children’s chests during CPR, thus leading to a better understanding of how a child’s chest interacts with a seat belt or car seat harness when crash forces are applied.

The scientists concluded that childrens bone structure and soft tissue respond much differently to crash forces than those of an adult, and recommended design improvements that would better represent an actual childs body mechanics, including the head and brain, the neck and spine, the abdomen and the chest and rib cage. These body areas account for the most serious and frequently seen injuries children suffer in car accidents.

CChIPS also has sponsored a number of studies related to teen driving safety, including research on distracted driving and the impact of attention deficit disorder medications, which apparently results in a significant improvement in driving performance.

Education & Outreach

Several of the researchers at the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies serve as faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, and in turn the center draws on the capabilities of top-rated undergraduate through post-graduate-level trainees at the university. 

The center has extensive experience in disseminating research and best-practice findings to the audiences that can best effect change, including engineers, educators, the media, health care providers and policymakers. The center delivers research findings to these audiences and conducts training programs and activities for educators using Web-based, video, and print materials enhanced by animations, illustrations and other educational aids.

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  • woman buckling young girl into car safety seat
The center works with industry partners to conduct research that will inform development of new product designs and other strategies aimed at improving child safety.