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Playground Safety, Childhood Obesity Prevention Are Focus Of Abernethy Elementary School Event, April 24

With warmer weather just around the corner, playgrounds at Oregon's schools and parks, as well as in private backyards, become an increasingly important factor in the prevention of childhood obesity. Summer also is the time when emergency rooms see an increase in playground-related injuries. Oregon Health & Science University's Injury-Free Coalition for Kids (IFCK) and Doernbecher Children's Safety Center in Doernbecher Children's Hospital would like to remind parents and educators to encourage safe play at home, in parks and at school.

More than 200,000 children are injured on playgrounds in the United States each year, an average of one playground-related emergency room visit every 2 1/2 minutes. In response, governors around the country, including Oregon's Gov. Ted Kulongoski, have proclaimed April 24 to 28, 2006, National Playground Safety Week.

To kick off Playground Safety Week, experts from the Doernbecher Children's Safety Center and the OHSU Emergency Department's IFCK will hold a childhood safety/obesity prevention event at Abernethy Elementary School Monday, April 24, from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m.

Craig Warden, M.D., IFCK principal investigator, and Phil Engle, IFCK program coordinator and senior research associate in emergency medicine at OHSU, will demonstrate how to make playgrounds safe, and a physical education teacher and his students will demonstrate playground activities that promote physical activity. Warden also is medical director for Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, and assistant professor of emergency medicine, OHSU School of Medicine,

IFCK researchers received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation to conduct a demonstration project in collaboration with Abernethy that includes District Nutrition Services, Ecotrust Food and Farms program, and Safe Routes to School. The goal of the project is to develop a model for student-centered wellness practices that promote healthy eating, physical activity, stress reduction and safety. IFCK and the school's PE teacher will look at how playground design and safety impacts physical activity levels.

 IFCK and Doernbecher Children's Safety Center specialists recommend parents and educators talk to children about how to play safely to reduce unintentional playground injuries using the S.A.F.E. model:

 S -- Supervision is present, but strings and ropes are not.
 Adult presence is needed to watch for potential hazards, observe, intercede and facilitate play when necessary. Strings on clothing or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on equipment.

 A -- All children play on age-appropriate equipment.
 Preschoolers, aged 2 to 5, and children, aged 5 to 12 are developmentally different and need different equipment located in separate areas to keep the playground safe and fun for all.

 F -- Falls to surface are cushioned.
 Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls to the surface. Acceptable surfaces include hardwood fiber/mulch, pea gravel, sand and synthetic materials, such as poured-in-place rubber mats or tiles, each with a minimum depth rating. Playground surfaces should not be concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop, or packed dirt or rocks.

 E -- Equipment is safe.
 Be sure the equipment is anchored safely in the ground and that all pieces are in good working order: S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, there are no exposed footings, etc.

The Injury Free Coalition for Kids is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation based in the Department of Emergency Medicine at OHSU. The Doernbecher Children's Safety Center is dedicated to reducing unintentional injuries in children through education and distribution of safety products.

For more information about the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at OHSU, contact Phil Engle at 503 494-1169, For more information about the Doernbecher Children's Safety Center, contact Tosha Zaback, 503 418-5666, 

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