Charleston’s MUSC seeing rise in child deaths mirroring national trend
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Amid a report of a dramatic rise in child mortality cases across the nation, doctors at MUSC’s Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston report they are seeing a similar increase.
A new article in The Journal of the American Medical Association is sounding the alarm about a dramatic rise in child mortality rates in the United States. The article states pediatric mortality rates jumped about 20 percent between 2019 and 2021, the largest increase in decades.
The emergency department at Shawn Jenkins recorded about 29,000 visits last year alone and staff members say 700 of those were trauma patients.
Doctors are seeing injuries and deaths that are preventable. Out of the 150 motor vehicle accidents they saw last year, 30 percent of kids were not restrained at all.
“The main way that we can prevent these injuries and deaths is to make sure we’re doing everything we can in power because we know accidents will still happen,” Mary Beth Vassy, a pediatric injury prevention coordinator, said.
Christa Green, the program director of MUSC’s Turning the Tide Violence Intervention Program, said the pandemic exacerbated the issue of community violence that was already a problem before.
“That’s become one of the leading mechanisms of injury here in our trauma centers, violence,” Green said. “So, firearms, stabbings, assaults.”
Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Annie Andrews said she wasn’t surprised about JAMA’s findings because of what she sees every day at the hospital.
“Kids out there are not alright, and we need to get serious about solutions,” Andrews said. “The other thing that that article really struck home for me was when it said as a nation, we cherish our children. I believe that is true. I believe everybody that works in this building believes that it’s true, but we need to ask ourselves if our actions align with that statement. Because the data would say, and my experience would say, that our actions do not align with that statement.”
The leading cause of death for children in the country is gun violence. Andrews said saving more lives could be as easy as parents securing firearms or telling their neighbors to do the same.
“If we all go home today and start securely storing our firearm, we can dramatically reduce the incidents of unintentional firearm injuries in children, of youth suicides, and of firearms showing up on school grounds,” Andrews said. “Kids out there are not alright and we need to get serious about solutions. The other things that that article really struck home for me was when it said as a nation, we cherish our children. I believe that is true. I believe everybody that works in this building believes that it’s true but we need to ask ourselves if our actions align with that statement. Because the data would say, and my experience would say, that our actions do not align with that statement.”
For Latoya Rivers, site supervisor with the Youth Advocate Programs in the Lowcountry, being out in neighborhoods working directly with high-risk kids and families has shown her that nothing is going to get better unless everyone works together.
“We are the repairers of the breach to repair the walls in our families, our communities, in our cities and even in our own households. And how are we going to do that? The better way is coming together because the one thing I know is teamwork makes the dream work,” Rivers said.
The YAP team assists in supporting high-risk 10 to 18-year-olds who have experienced gun violence or gangs, and provides community-based services as alternatives to youth incarceration. To learn more about their mission and take advantage of their help, call Rivers at 843-214-3777.
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