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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (May 2, 2013) – Researchers at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCUMB) recently received the first ever Award of Excellence in Safety Research from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and Active Living Research (ALR) for their study on neighborhood playground equipment safety.
The results of the study, entitled “Playground Equipment Safety in Lower, Medium and Higher Income Neighborhoods,” were presented in February at the Active Living Research Conference in San Diego, Calif., by Terry Presley, a KCUMB second-year osteopathic medical student. Other researchers involved were KCUMB faculty Richard Suminski, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology, Jason Wasserman, Ph.D., assistant professor of bioethics, Elizabeth McClain, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.P.H., assistant dean of clinical education and assistant professor of clinical affairs, family and community medicine, and Carlene Mayfield, research assistant.
According to a CDC fact sheet, statistics indicate that each year, emergency departments in the United States treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries.
“This is a significant number that deserves attention as to how we can provide safer places for children to play and get the exercise they need,” Suminski said. “Therefore, we examined associations between playground safety and certain characteristics of the neighborhood, park and playground.
Characteristics included average income level of the neighborhood, presence of incivilities, such as litter, in the park, and the number of children using the playground.
The study’s design incorporated a cross-sectional audit of 41 playgrounds and parks in a large mid-western city, utilizing a 24-item checklist developed by the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). The checklist classifies safety criteria into 4 categories − supervision, age-appropriate design, fall surfacing and equipment maintenance.
A key finding was that 17 percent of the studied playgrounds earned a “C” rating. According to the NPPS, a “C” rating means a playground is potentially hazardous for children and corrective measures should be taken.
The reasons for lower playground safety included lack of separate areas for ages 2-5 and 5-12 and the presence of playground equipment with broken or missing parts.
The NPPS suggests the potential of a life-threatening injury is significantly increased if these conditions are present.
Not only are a substantial percentage of the playgrounds potentially hazardous, the reasons they received this label are associated with unacceptable outcomes,” Suminski said.
Other key findings were that playgrounds in neighborhoods with more children and educated adults received higher safety ratings and playgrounds with fewer amenities received lower ratings.
According to Suminski, this indicates a potential for residents to have a positive impact on park safety and that maintenance and inspection programs may want to target playgrounds with fewer amenities.
“The conclusion is that there is definitely room for improvement in the safety levels of the playgrounds we examined,” he said. “This is not something that can wait, given the risk of severe injuries. The issue of playground safety is one for the entire community not just the entities directly responsible for the maintenance of playground structures”.
About KCUMBKansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences is a fully accredited, private university, with a College of Biosciences and a College of Osteopathic Medicine. Founded in 1916, its College of Osteopathic Medicine is the oldest medical school in Kansas City, Mo., and the largest in the state.
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