Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has worked to reduce preventable childhood injuries in the Tampa Bay area for decades. When the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges, a dedicated group of injury prevention experts stepped up to meet them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected children in a variety of ways, from moving school online to straining mental health. Another consequence during this time of unprecedented upheaval is more injuries. That led Johns Hopkins All Children’s to expand its injury prevention efforts—a key area of focus for the hospital and a coalition of community partners since 1991.
“In March 2020, the injury prevention team saw a significant spike in unintentional injuries, many of which were due to more children lacking adult supervision at the start of the pandemic,” says Kellie Gilmore, community health and wellness manager at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. “We established the Safety4Allkids team in June 2020 with the help of a generous grant from the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation to support additional, much-needed injury prevention programs and resources in Tampa Bay communities, including Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.”
The four-person Safety4Allkids team works to reduce unintentional injuries among children in priority areas that reflect some of the most frequent reasons for Emergency Center visits at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. These priority areas include:
The impact of the pandemic has been felt in many of these areas, from a sharp rise in childhood drownings — Florida leads the nation in the rate of death from unintentional drowning among children age 9 and younger, according to the Florida Department of Health — to new financial challenges that prevent families from being able to afford car seats.
“It’s important to focus on our priority areas because many injuries stemming from them can have lifelong consequences for children and families,” says Petra Vybiralova Stanton, M.S.W, CPSTI, Safe Kids supervisor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s. “These include traumatic brain injuries, which can have long-term impact, and, in the case of drowning, anoxic brain problems. Preventing these injuries or reducing their severity has a tremendous impact on children’s and families’ quality of life.”
The Safety4Allkids team promotes injury prevention in a variety of ways while adhering to pandemic best practices to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The team’s efforts include:
- Creating water safety campaigns and materials for preschools
- Developing a Water Safety Wednesdays campaign that drew heavy traffic on social media and was featured in more than 60 news stories
- Distributing bicycle helmets to families at local food drives
- Restructuring Battle of the Belts, a peer-to-peer program for high school students to encourage seat belt use
- Holding drive-through and in-person life jacket giveaways
- Producing an instructional video to teach families how to fit a bicycle helmet
- Providing car seats to families in need
- Teaching new or expectant parents how to install and use car seats during virtual education sessions
- Working with community partners to provide water safety education and water watcher badges for families
The Safety4Allkids team develops age-appropriate educational programs for children ranging from preschoolers to high school students, but they aren’t the only audience that matters.
“Our messaging is designed to reach parents, medical providers and educators, as well as children,” Stanton says. “Understanding that safety is a family affair is a significant step in keeping children safe. Children tend to mimic the behaviors of adults.”
Peace of Mind for Precious Cargo
In April, the words “safety” and “family” took on deeper meaning for first-time father Juan, a medical salesman from Seminole, whose family recently expanded with the birth of a son, Logan, in April. When Juan and his wife, Sarah, were expecting, they took several newborn education classes. Car seat safety came up, and the couple decided they wanted more instruction on the topic.
“It was challenging to find an organization that would help with car seat safety during the pandemic,” Juan says. “Finally, we found Safety4Allkids and Petra. I wanted to make sure my baby was safe from day one.”
Juan, who had purchased two car seats, needed help understanding how to install and use them. He made an appointment for a virtual, individual training session with Stanton and one of her colleagues. The trio connected via FaceTime on a Friday in March — the most convenient time for Juan — and the Safety4Allkids experts walked him through the process step by step.
“Petra and her colleague helped ensure I was installing each seat properly and that I knew how to use the harness,” Juan says. “I taught Sarah what I learned. Completing the training with Petra was such a huge relief for me and my wife. It was the perfect way to end the week because I was able to cross one more thing off of my checklist to get ready for Logan’s arrival.”
Juan says Stanton turned something that seemed intimidating into something achievable.
“I thought installing and using a car seat would be more complex than it turned out to be,” Juan says. “It is complex, but when Petra walked me through it, she made it seem simple.”
Mark Your Calendar
The work of preventing childhood injuries never stops, which is why the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Safety4Allkids team holds educational events and participates in national safety observances throughout the year. Here’s a look at what’s coming up over the next three months.
- Back to school: pedestrian safety awareness
- Heatstroke awareness
- Grilling safety awareness
- National child passenger safety certification training
- Baby Safety Month
- Injury Prevention Awareness Month
- Heatstroke awareness
- National Grandparents Day (Sept. 12)
- National Child Passenger Safety Week (Sept. 19–25)
- National Rail Safety Week (Sept. 20–26)
- Seat Check Saturday (Sept. 25)
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month
- Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 3–9)
- International Walk to School Day (Oct. 6)
- Home Fire Drill Day (Oct. 9)
- National Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 17–23)
- National School Bus Safety Week (Oct. 17–23)
- Halloween (Oct. 31)
- Car seat distribution sessions every Wednesday in Pinellas County
- Car seat distribution sessions in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Polk and Sarasota counties
- Safe Kids Council volunteer and community member meetings in Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties
- Virtual car seat checks by appointment
To register for a car seat distribution event or a virtual car seat check, or for information about upcoming Safety4Allkids events, call 727-767-7835.
Safety4Allkids Outreach, By the Numbers
How has Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s Safety4Allkids program benefited its six-county Tampa Bay service area? These statistics ranging from the program’s establishment in July 2020 through late May 2021 tell the story:
- 75,494 students and parents reached with water safety materials
- 4,582 children participated in a walk-to-school day event virtually or in person
- 13,195 teenagers participated in the teen safe driving program
- 774 life jackets distributed to children in need
- 1,262 bike helmets fitted and distributed
- 299 individuals from as far away as Singapore participated in a virtual technical update program for certified car seat technicians
- 327 car seats provided to families in need
- 70 virtual car seat checks serving 142 parents
Contact senior gift officer Katrina Mason at 727‑767‑8547 or [email protected] for more information about how to support Safety4Allkids.