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Child and Youth Fatalities

In 2008, there were 98 natural deaths of youth age 0-17, and 36 accidental deaths.

Significance of Indicator: The number of infants, children, and youth who die reflects the overall safety and public health of the community.

what the data tell us

Definition: The number of deaths from accidental or natural causes for children 1-17.

Data Source: Texas Department of State Health Services, 2004-2008

The story behind the data

Over the 5 year period between 2004 and 2008, 644 children died in our community. Some died from natural causes, others due to illnesses and prematurity. 26 children died as a result of intentional injuries (homicide, suicide) and 128 as a result of accidents, most preventable.

One of the most relevant means of assessing mortality data is through Years of Potential Life Lost (YPPL), which takes into account the age of victims as well as the cause of death. YPPL is an estimate of the average years a person would have lived if he or she had not died prematurely. For children, the YPPL is much higher than for older adults. Besides the emotional impact that deaths among our children contribute to, the loss of productivity due to death at an early age is of great significance.

Accidental Deaths

According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional injuries and violence are the leading cause of death, hospitalization, and disability for children ages 1-18.

Across the nation, researchers estimate that 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, and that number is believed to be far lower than the true number of deaths. Public attention and commitment given to the matter of child abuse and neglect-related deaths has historically been inadequate. The fact is that many child deaths have been misidentified for a variety of reasons, and the first step in prevention is understanding the circumstances surrounding the death and each agency's role in responding to a child's death.

Accidental deaths among our children and youth are almost always preventable. Whether it is restraining a child in a properly fitting car safety seat, placing a helmet on a child's head while bicycling or participating in other wheeled sports, or teaching them to be a safe pedestrian, there are many measures that parents and caregivers can take to reduce the risk of serious injuries to our children. 

Asphyxiation among infants due to unsafe sleeping environments has come to the forefront of injury prevention efforts. What once was commonly referred to as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), are now being more closely examined. Many of these deaths which years ago would have been referred to as SIDS are now being determined to be asphyxiation – resulting either from co-sleeping with a parent in the same bed or from unsafe sleeping environments. These teeny ones were too little to remind a parent to put them in a crib or on a safe sleeping surface. Many parents are unaware that sofas and cribs full of blankets present risks to small infants and unaware that infants are safer when sleeping on their backs.

Natural Deaths

Many studies have shown that early regular prenatal care is important for the health of both mother and child. At prenatal care visits, health providers have the opportunity to educate mothers about how to care for themselves during pregnancy and to assess their medical history. In addition, health care providers can monitor any medical conditions the mother might have, test for problems with the baby and mother, and serve as a referral source for support groups, social services, and child birth classes. When an expectant mother does not receive adequate prenatal care, her baby is put at risk for many problems, defects, and complications at birth, among these being prematurity and low birth weight, which are the greatest predictors of infant mortality. Prematurity and low birth weight also place a child at greater risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Other studies suggest other barriers to prenatal care include unreliable transportation, lack of childcare, long clinic waits, and inconvenient clinic hours. Prenatal care is a crucial step in a baby's growth and well-being. Adequate prenatal care is an effective intervention that improves pregnancy outcomes, and can prevent a number of complications.

Local efforts to improve the indicator

The Travis County Child Fatality Review Team  (TC CFRT) is a multidisciplinary group consisting of law enforcement officials, medical professionals, social workers, prosecutors, and child advocacy professionals working together toward a single goal: to prevent the senseless and needless deaths of children in Travis County. The TC CFRT collaborates to better understand how, why, and which children are dying. They evaluate the circumstances and events surrounding each death. The team was formed in 1992 and includes the Austin Police Department, Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, Dell Children's Medical Center, Safekids Austin, City of Austin – Emergency Medical Services, Texas Department of State Health Services – Bureau of Vital Statistics, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services – Child Protective Services, Texas Department of Public Safety, Center for Child Protection, Travis County District Attorney's Office, Travis County Medical Examiner, Travis County Sheriff's Office, and others. The team also includes professionals in the medical and mental health fields. The TC CFRT team meets at the Center for Child Protection every other month to review the circumstances associated with every child fatality, ages 0–17, in Travis County, and publishes annual reports on occurrences.

This unique collaboration is charged with looking beyond statistics to identify patterns in child deaths in order to educate the community about how to prevent them. Specifically, the team's goals are the following:

A closer look at the data

Click any of the section titles below to view related graph and information.

Total Deaths by Natural Causes in Travis County, Ages 0-17

Definition: The number of deaths from natural causes for children 0-17.

Data Source: Texas Department of State Health Services, 2004-2008

Data Considerations: n/a

Total Deaths by Accidental Causes in Travis County, Ages 0-17

Definition: The number of deaths from accidental causes for children 0-17.

Data Source: Texas Department of State Health Services, 2004-2008

Data Considerations: n/a

Infant Mortality

contributors to the development of this indicator

  • Travis County Child Fatality Review Team