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Tackling inequalities in home safety

The European Child Home Safety Conference, hosted by Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and HEAL member, the European Child Safety Alliance, took place on November 2nd and 3rd in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Over 100 child safety experts from across Europe attended the conference, representing nearly 20 European countries.

Injuries which occur in the home are one of the leading causes of death of European children 0 to 14 years of age. Children from lower income communities as well as those from lower income countries across Europe suffer much higher rates of life-threatening injuries, including dangerous falls, burns and scalds and poisonings. Yet we know that many of these injuries are easily preventable with simple measures tied to engineering, enforcement and education.

Janice Cave, RoSPA director of public affairs, who represents the charity at the European Child Safety Alliance, said: “One of the outstanding strengths of this event is the diversity of experience among participants, both delegates and speakers. The varied programme offers a glimpse of the many different aspects of the child home safety dialogue.”

Monday’s programme focused on the role of national governments and European-level interventions. Morag MacKay of the European Child Safety Alliance presented an overview of national policies of EU countries and emphasised that national legislation is an important step in beginning to address inequalities. Delegates heard from Henry Watson of the Department of Children, Schools and Families, who highlighted their national “Safe at Home” initiative, which provides home safety equipment and education to deprived families with young children.

In the afternoon the delegates broke into workshop sessions which targeted the themes multi-sectoral partnering, education, and product safety legislation challenges. Tom Vanrenterghem of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, provided perspective on the challenges he, as a product engineer, faces in creating packaging that is both safe for children and environmentally sustainable.

During an evening dinner, a theatrical performer in the role of Queen Elizabeth regaled and educated the crowd with true tales of children’s health and safety during the medieval era.

- Photo: Surprise guest Queen Elizabeth presenting on medieval child safety practices, during the gala dinner at the European Child Home Safety Conference in England, with Joanne Vincenten, European Child Safety Alliance.

Tuesday’s programme provided a fascinating look at several international case studies. Delegates were treated to presentations on several diverse interactive education programmes: England’s LASER programme which focuses on educating teens to manage risk; Austria’s Child Safety House, which teaches parents and children to identify dangers at home; Israel’s SafeHome programme, which works closely with the Arab population on how to build their own homes safely; and a presentation from Portugal showing how home safety can be tied directly into elementary science education programmes to the great benefit of both disciplines. Further presentations were made on tap water scald prevention in England, and community engagement actions in Scotland which tied together caring for the young and the elderly. The final presentation illuminated the relationship between injuries and the portrayal of risky behaviour on television.

Joanne Vincenten, Director of European Child Safety Alliance, who provided closing remarks to the conference, said: "The investment in prevention of home injuries has not been commensurate with the size of the problem and attention to this matter needs to occur at the same level of that as in road safety."

Last updated on 10 June 2011

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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