IWK’s Child Safety Link celebrates 20 years

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When someone we love is injured, that becomes the sole focus of our entire life. The staff at Child Safety Link have been hard at work for the past 20 years to prevent unintentional injury at home, on the road, and at play. While the usual bumps and scratches of childhood are important for growth and development, serious injuries negatively affect the quality of life for those injured and place massive stress on our healthcare system. 

Child Safety Link team (2023)

On November 20, 2002, International Day of The Child, the IWK launched Child Safety Link, the Maritime wide child and youth injury prevention program with Sandra Newton at the helm and two staff members. The former program was called NS Child Injury and Safety Promotion, which was primarily a research program, and also offered home safety workshops for families in Nova Scotia with a mobile safety house. As the program progressed, CSL developed the Nova Scotia Car Seat Safety Strategy and advocated for stricter ATV, helmet, and booster seat regulations. They also published a children’s book on playground safety and opened their temporary Saint John office, all in their first 10 years of service. For a full look at CSL’s 20 years of service, check out their timeline line poster here: CSL 20 Year Timeline Poster.

Sandra Newton (2012)

 Injury is the leading cause of death in children. While CSL has no interest in “bubble-wrapping” children, they facilitate ways to avoid serious unintentional injury through capacity building and education, advocacy, public policy and working with decision-makers. “We train car seat technicians to help families install their car seats correctly, work with the government to enforce stricter legislation and offer education on how to properly buckle up your child,” says Newton, who still works with CSL 20 years later, “We may not be able to stop the crash, but we can help to lessen the injury.” 

There are the Essential E’s to injury prevention: 

  1. Education(providing the public with awareness, education, and skills training to prevent injuries)

The basic concept behind education is that the public, given information or skill training, will retain what has been taught and use it to reduce the risk of injury.

2. Enforcement (policies, laws, and regulations that aim to reduce injuries)

Enforcement strategies include the creation and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies aimed at reducing injuries

3. Engineering (developing or modifying products and environments to prevent injuries) 

Engineering strategies involve the development or modification of products and environments to make them safer. 

The major contribution of the 3 E’s model of injury prevention has been the shift in focus from injuries being seen as the sole responsibility of the person injured, to the recognition that others (e.g., employers, supervisors, equipment manufacturers, policy makers, designers of the built environment, whole community) have a collective responsibility to prevent injuries. Multi-faceted initiatives that use more than one strategy have the greatest chance for success. In recent years, there have been efforts to expand this model to embrace a more multi-faceted, health promotion orientation by adding more E’s such as Economics, Equity, Evaluation, Empowerment, etc

Child Safety Link team Halloween costume (2010)

“We all have a role to play in injury prevention,” says Newton, “By working collaboratively and applying a variety of strategies, we can, together, promote a safer community for all to live long, healthy lives. Think about how you can support injury prevention. You can be a model of safe behaviours, advocate for healthy policies, support organizational position statements, look at your role with an injury prevention perspective, integrate best practices into existing efforts, access and share child and youth injury prevention information with families, caregivers and  key interested parties, and collaborate with other organizations for a united voice.”

Newton wraps up by thanking the staff, which has grown over the past 20 years. “Their passion and dedication are what has allowed CSL to continue to grow and offer such an important service to our communities and help to expand to Atlantic wide where possible.” 

CSL continues to adapt and expand their program to keep our children safe. Their most recent project is a series of videos in multiple languages to specifically assist diverse and immigrant families with selecting the right car seat and proper installation. 

As well, to celebrate their birthday, CSL launched a new Community of Practice for child and youth injury prevention called The Link. The Link is an online community for professionals, colleagues, and like-minded individuals that aims to bridge the gap, as children’s injury prevention is related to the work we all do across various sectors. This community will house events, webinars, grant opportunities, and promotional materials, as well as act as a space for open dialogue, questions, networking, and collaboration. Please click here to register for The Link: Atlantic Children’s Injury Prevention Community. 

Connect with Child Safety Link on Facebook, Twitter, or visit their website www.childsafetylink.ca.