Home safety education and providing safety equipment for injury prevention

Injuries are the leading cause of childhood death in industrialised countries. People living in disadvantaged circumstances are at greater risk of injury than those who are more advantaged. This review examined whether home safety education and providing safety equipment reduced injuries and increased safety behaviours and safety equipment use. It also looked at whether home safety education was more or less effective in disadvantaged families. The review authors found 98 studies involving 2,605,044 participants which reported many different safety behaviours, but relatively few studies included information on injuries.

The authors found that home safety interventions provided in the home may reduce injury rates, but more research is needed to confirm this finding. The results often varied between studies but, overall, families who received home safety interventions were more likely to have a safe hot tap water temperature, a working smoke alarm, a fire escape plan, fitted stair gates, socket covers on unused sockets, syrup of ipecac, poison control centre numbers accessible, and to store medicines and cleaning products out of reach of children. The authors found that home safety education was equally effective in the families whose children were at greater risk of injury.

Authors' conclusions: 

Home safety interventions most commonly provided as one-to-one, face-to-face education, especially with the provision of safety equipment, are effective in increasing a range of safety practices. There is some evidence that such interventions may reduce injury rates, particularly where interventions are provided at home. Conflicting findings regarding interventions providing safety equipment on safety practices and injury outcomes are likely to be explained by two large studies; one clinic-based study provided equipment but did not reduce injury rates and one school-based study did not provide equipment but did demonstrate a significant reduction in injury rates. There was no consistent evidence that home safety education, with or without the provision of safety equipment, was less effective in those participants at greater risk of injury. Further studies are still required to confirm these findings with respect to injury rates.

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Background: 

In industrialised countries injuries (including burns, poisoning or drowning) are the leading cause of childhood death and steep social gradients exist in child injury mortality and morbidity. The majority of injuries in pre-school children occur at home but there is little meta-analytic evidence that child home safety interventions reduce injury rates or improve a range of safety practices, and little evidence on their effect by social group.

Objectives: 

We evaluated the effectiveness of home safety education, with or without the provision of low cost, discounted or free equipment (hereafter referred to as home safety interventions), in reducing child injury rates or increasing home safety practices and whether the effect varied by social group.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (2009, Issue 2) in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), PsycINFO (Ovid), ISI Web of Science: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), ISI Web of Science: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), ISI Web of Science: Conference Proceedings Citation Index- Science (CPCI-S), CINAHL (EBSCO) and DARE (2009, Issue 2) in The Cochrane Library. We also searched websites and conference proceedings and searched the bibliographies of relevant studies and previously published reviews. We contacted authors of included studies as well as relevant organisations. The most recent search for trials was May 2009.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-randomised controlled trials and controlled before and after (CBA) studies where home safety education with or without the provision of safety equipment was provided to those aged 19 years and under, and which reported injury, safety practices or possession of safety equipment.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently assessed study quality and extracted data. We attempted to obtain individual participant level data (IPD) for all included studies and summary data and IPD were simultaneously combined in meta-regressions by social and demographic variables. Pooled incidence rate ratios (IRR) were calculated for injuries which occurred during the studies, and pooled odds ratios were calculated for the uptake of safety equipment or safety practices, with 95% confidence intervals.

Main results: 

Ninety-eight studies, involving 2,605,044 people, are included in this review. Fifty-four studies involving 812,705 people were comparable enough to be included in at least one meta-analysis. Thirty-five (65%) studies were RCTs. Nineteen (35%) of the studies included in the meta-analysis provided IPD.

There was a lack of evidence that home safety interventions reduced rates of thermal injuries or poisoning. There was some evidence that interventions may reduce injury rates after adjusting CBA studies for baseline injury rates (IRR 0.89, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.01). Greater reductions in injury rates were found for interventions delivered in the home (IRR 0.75, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.91), and for those interventions not providing safety equipment (IRR 0.78, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.92).

Home safety interventions were effective in increasing the proportion of families with safe hot tap water temperatures (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.86), functional smoke alarms (OR 1.81, 95% CI 1.30 to 2.52), a fire escape plan (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.45 to 2.77), storing medicines (OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.84) and cleaning products (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.96) out of reach, having syrup of ipecac (OR 3.34, 95% CI 1.50 to 7.44) or poison control centre numbers accessible (OR 3.30, 95% CI 1.70 to 6.39), having fitted stair gates (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.19 to 2.17), and having socket covers on unused sockets (OR 2.69, 95% CI 1.46 to 4.96).

Interventions providing free, low cost or discounted safety equipment appeared to be more effective in improving some safety practices than those interventions not doing so. There was no consistent evidence that interventions were less effective in families whose children were at greater risk of injury.

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