Doctors, firefighters, state leaders all agree decline in Tenn. child fatality rate good news

POSTED: 10:24 PM Feb 27 2013   UPDATED: 12:11 PM Feb 27 2013
KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

It's taken five years, but researchers in Tennessee have good news: the overall death rate for children has dropped by 20%, that's according to the State Child Fatality Review Team.

Researchers took a look at more than 800 deaths of children 17 years old and younger. News 5 caught up with folks in the Tri-Cities and whether you're a doctor, firefighter, or state legislator, this decline is good news.

More than nine Kindergarten classrooms of children, or 189 lives -- you might be asking yourself what those two numbers represent. It's actually the 20 percent drop in the overall death rate for children in Tennessee, according to a recent study by the State Child Fatality Review Team.

Researchers found 62 percent of those deaths were natural causes, things like birth defects, cancer, prematurity, and infections.

We caught up with pediatrician Diana Reinhardt, who says the decline could be because of better preventative care. "As far as the congenital things, you can't do anything about to begin with. But I think we're identifying them earlier, we're getting them to where they need to be with sub-specialists to have that support from the get-go," she said.

Another scary statistic News 5 found: about 62 percent of all deaths through age 17 happen the first year of life. "Your immune system isn't there, you're not exposed to things yet. So a common cold can land an infant in the hospital needing oxygen," added Dr. Reinhardt.

But the car can be just as deadly. Researchers found when it came to motor vehicle fatalities almost 60 percent of those children were 10 to 17 years old.

Barry Brickey with the Kingsport Fire Department says when it comes to teens, he believes it breaks down to distractions and time on the road. "With younger drivers I believe it's a lot of inexperience and just thinking they can do this and that," he told us.

State leaders like John Lundberg say work is always being done to better protect children and this decline is good news.

Something else we learned -- researchers say in their findings of all the deaths, 30 percent were noted to be preventable.