Back in the mid 1990’s the AZ State Legislature established the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program to evaluate every child death and provide evidence-based policy recommendations to prevent child deaths.
Over the years many policy and operational interventions came out of these reports, from safe sleep to new seat belt laws for kids. The goal of each year’s report by conducting a comprehensive review of all child deaths and make policy recommendations to prevent as many as possible.
Last year’s report found that firearm deaths increased 41% over the previous year, while child death rates were 250% higher than the national average (likely due to the lack of mitigation measures implemented by soon to be former governor Ducey and former director Christ.
The Arizona Child Fatality Review Program’s goal is to reduce child deaths in Arizona by conducting a comprehensive review of all child deaths to determine what steps could have been taken, if any, to prevent each child’s death.
In 2021, 863 children died in Arizona, an increase from 838 deaths in 2020. Fourth eight percent (48%) of the 863 deaths were preventable. The three most common causes of preventable death were motor vehicle crashes, firearm injuries, and suffocation. Fifty-six (56) children died from a firearm injury (100% of these deaths were determined to be preventable).
In 43% of the preventable deaths, substance use was a contributing factor, and in 33% of these deaths, poverty was a risk factor. There were 44 suicide deaths in 2021. In 68% of these deaths, recent warning signs for suicide were the most common risk factor, and 17 suicide deaths were due to firearm injury.
Prematurity was the most common cause of death for neonates (infants less than 28 days old) while suffocation was the common cause of death among infants 28 days to less than 1 year of age. Drowning was the most common cause of death in children 1-4 years of age as 68% of the 44 drowning deaths occurred in this age group.
There were 65 SUIDs in 2021. An unsafe sleep environment was a factor in 95% of these deaths and bedsharing in 58% of the deaths.
Arizona’s abuse/neglect mortality rate increased 36% from 5.8 in 2020 to 7.9 in 2021. Of the 128 children who died in 2021 from abuse/neglect, substance use was a contributing factor in 59% of the deaths, and the child’s families had prior involvement with a CPS agency in 46% of the deaths.
Importantly, the report proposes several evidence-based interventions that should be implemented that would reduce preventable childhood deaths. Those recommendations are laid out on Pages 90-99 of the Arizona Child Fatality Review Program | Twenty-Ninth Annual Report.
Intervention recommendations are proposed for preventing abuse & neglect, COVID-19, drowning, firearm injuries, car crashes, prematurity, substance use, SIDS, and suicide.
We expect this year’s Child Fatality Review Program report to be more influential in informing public policy as the incoming governor is more receptive to prioritizing evidence-based public health policy & practice than the outgoing administration.