BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Preventing childhood injuries and deaths is increasingly in the hands of Kern’s families and first responders as experts encourage team effort in minimizing some of the major threats to our children.
The part of the county’s annual Safe Baby, Safe Children conference.
Organizers say it’s about spreading awareness so people understand and can combat what’s taking the lives of Kern’s children.
“You’re always nervous that something’s gonna happen to them,” said Kristin Davis, mother of two.
From accidental deaths to homicides, child deaths are a grim reality.
Here in Kern County, it seems preventing childhood injuries and deaths is increasingly in the hands of Kern’s families and first responders, as experts encourage team effort in minimizing some of the major threats to children.
This goal was part of the county’s annual Safe Baby, Safe Children conference, which took place throughout Friday.
“How families and healthcare providers can play a role in preventing these injuries that could potentially lead to deaths in our children, and what roles both healthcare providers and families play in the actual prevention methods that are actually put into play in our lives,” explained Director of Kern County Public Health Department Director Brynn Carrigan.
The conference is an educational event that follows the county public health department’s yearly Child Death Review Report.
“So that we’re not just telling the community about the tragedies that are happening in our community, but we’re also equipping them with resources to prevent them moving forward,” Carrigan said.
The most recent report shows in 2022, there was a 40% increase in children who died from fentanyl.
“These statistics are startling, but hopefully they send a strong message to our community,” Carrigan said. “This is a problem; it is taking the innocent lives of our children…”
While urging folks to utilize the free Narcan kits across the county, Carrigan added, “It is absolutely something that requires not just a single agency but a collaborative approach…”
Accidents were the leading cause of preventable childhood deaths, with a total of 23.
“A large focus of what this year’s conference is on is that accidental injury prevention,” Carrigan said. “Any death in a child that could’ve been prevented is tragic, and it’s heart-wrenching.”
Davis emphasized knowledge can be power, explaining her knowledge accumulated in raising two children.
“But it’s still important to follow all the guidelines because the risks are still there,” she said. “Just because they’re your second baby doesn’t mean they’re less likely to have something happen to them.”
When it comes to babies, a big concern is the safety of their sleeping environment, like cribs.
“They need to be free of toys and free of blankets, and [parents] need to have only the baby in the crib,” said Bettina Kinsman, manager of Memorial Hospital’s NICU.
Kinsman warns ‘co-sleeping,’ meaning a baby sleeping with anything or anyone else, even the parents, can be fatal, and that death is preventable.
The position of a child while napping or sleeping is also key.
“The smaller the baby is, [they] can’t turn over,” Kinsman told 17 News. “They can’t get away from the stuffed animal, they get under the stuffed animal… The recommendations are you lay your baby down to one year of age on their back.”
Kinsman also recommended sleep sacks over multiple blankets, as they can safely offer the babies warmth and security.
Kinsman said it’s a myth that babies choke because they’re lying on their backs.
“I feel like a lot of times it’s us,” Kristin Davis said. “Oh, they seem cold, or they don’t seem comfortable, but they’re perfectly comfortable, and they’re safe… Your baby’s life is not worth risking one night’s sleep [in the same bed].”
But she added words of encouragement to all the parents out there: “Also though, you can’t worry yourself sick. You’re doing the best you can, and people need to remember that too.”