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Pamela Fuselli: Keeping Canadian children safe one message at a time

Pamela Fuselli, Executive Director, Safe Kids Canada

Every stage of a child’s life brings new experiences and with these experiences comes the potential for injuries. Safe Kids Canada works to ensure that society is armed with the necessary tools to prevent injury in children at each stage of their development.   

Safe Kids Canada is the national injury prevention program of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and a member of Safe Kids Worldwide. Through their vision: “Fewer Injuries. Healthier Children. A Safer Canada.” Safe Kids Canada wants children to have the opportunity to participate in fun, healthy activities and stay safe doing so.

Ninety per cent of reported injuries are preventable, and preventable injuries to children cost the Canadian healthcare system approximately $4 billion annually.  It is important for Canadians to know how to prevent these incidents and ultimately the injuries they can cause. One component of Safe Kids Canada’s comprehensive work is education. Before beginning to promote their messages around injury prevention, Safe Kids Canada has to consider who they should target.

“When choosing key stakeholders, Safe Kids has to consider who has an interest in injury, who wants information about injuries and who needs this information about injuries,” says Pamela Fuselli, Executive Director, Safe Kids Canada.

Safe Kids Canada builds capacity with their stakeholders using a health promotion model, where information is easily understood by each unique group. The importance of tailoring their messages to specific audiences has become evident to Safe Kids through consultation with each of these groups.

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Parents and families enjoy customizable information and it’s important for them to be able to reference this information while their children are transitioning into new stages of life. Safe Kids provides them with fact sheets, checklists and safety tips, showing how as children grow they are at risk for different injuries and how these injuries can be prevented. A family with a child who just started crawling can clearly and easily access information about the new risks that come with their child being more mobile and how to prepare for and prevent injuries. For example, children who have learned to walk can now reach items on higher surfaces and move faster so they require active supervision.

Safe Kids Canada works in partnership with hospitals and public health nurses to build their injury prevention capacity. Since time and funding for injury prevention is limited in a clinical setting, Safe Kids ensures that employees of these settings are equipped with best practices for injury prevention that they can promote with their own patients and community.  

Another way Safe Kids builds community is through social marketing and networking. They have recently started to promote their messages through channels such asTwitter, Facebook, YouTube and a blog. Safe Kids Canada has over 25,000 subscribers to their RSS feeds.    

“By building relationships with key stakeholders and partners across the country, there is a lot of work that can be done and successes achieved,” said Fuselli.  

One of those successes was the passing of Bill C-36, the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act which aims to decrease injuries caused by consumer products. Each year over 14,000 product-related injuries occur in children under the age of 10. With the passing of Bill C-36, Health Canada has more tools to better protect the health and safety of Canadians through effective enforcement measures such as mandatory testing and mandatory recalls of dangerous products. Safe Kids supported the Government of Canada through the process and engaged their stakeholders for support along the way.

An important way to achieve advancement in injury prevention is through the presentation of concrete research results.

“I think the injury prevention sector does a really good job of applied research and of integrating knowledge translators into the research process,” said Fuselli.

In preparation for a recently awarded Canadian Institutes for Health Research Strategic Teams in Applied Injury Research (STAIR) grant application around children and youth injury prevention, investigators consulted various stakeholders including health care providers, parents, caregivers and other researchers. They were asked to think about what needed to be researched, and what gaps existed between research results and the everyday work that happens in the field of injury prevention. They were given the opportunity to tell the researchers how the results should be communicated when the research was finished.

“We have some stars aligning at this point in terms of the provinces being on board, the federal government showing interest, the injury prevention sector working more closely together and having grown over time”, said Fuselli. “I think we have an opportunity in the next 10 years to really make an impact on injury and get the message out there that injuries are preventable. There are ways to empower parents and make healthy public policy and environments that would reduce injuries but not impact on people’s overall enjoyment of life.”      

Pam Fuselli