Clark County child deaths decline

Child deaths in Clark County have dropped by about 29 percent since 2008, according to a report released Monday, with significant declines in suicides and weapons’ fatalities.

There were 222 child fatalities in 2012, compared to 311 in 2008, the annual report from the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy shows.

“We are happy that they have been on a decline,” said Tara Phebus, interim executive director of the institute based at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “We are expecting to see even fewer deaths in 2013.”

Officials say the drop is due to a combination of efforts in the community. The data released in each of the last five years has helped focus various injury prevention programs and education efforts in the community, said Phebus.

The data looks at child fatalities from birth to 17 years of age in Clark County.

Overall, there has been a steady decline each year for the last five years, Phebus said. However, some categories, such as motor vehicle deaths and suffocation, have increased.

In 2012, there were 19 motor vehicle deaths, compared to 10 in 2011, according to the study. Suffocation and strangulation deaths also increased to 23 in 2012 from 15 cases in 2011.

Deaths from poisoning and overdose went up to 16 in 2012, compared to nine cases the year before, the report shows. Suicides decreased to five in 2012, compared to 16 cases in 2011.

Deaths caused by weapons dropped to seven in 2012, compared to 30 cases the year before, according to the report. Homicides also dropped to eight cases in 2012, compared to 19 in 2011.

One death was the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to the report.

Phebus believes the annual report helps alert organizations to areas where the number of deaths might be rising.

“In 2011, suicide was one of our highest areas,” she said. “We kind of have come down. We average four to seven suicides. In 2011, we had 16. That year was just abnormally high.”

And many child deaths, such as suicides those resulting from suffocation, are preventable.

“There are efforts to try to increase education around safe sleep,” she said.

In March, the institute and the Southern Nevada Health District established a pilot program at University Medical Center to have parents watch a video about safe sleeping practices before being discharged from the hospital.

Margarita DeSantos, community health nurse manager at the Health District, said they chose UMC because the hospital averages about 300 births a month and because its the county hospital.

Officials chose to provide the education through a video format to make it more engaging and effective. The video highlights eight main points about safe sleeping practices, DeSantos said.

The safest way to put a baby to sleep is on its back, she said. Officials conducted a three-month survey of parents that had watched the video.

The survey showed high rates of information retention, DeSantos said.

“We will be tracking this as we move forward,” she said.

Officials hope to implement the program in 10 hospitals throughout the valley within a five-year period, DeSantos said.

“We want to work to decrease infant death because these are preventable deaths,” she said. “We are trying to get the education out there.”

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or

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