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Policy

Types of Policy

  • Organizational policy: rules or practices established within an agency such as schools, hospitals or health care sites, community or faith-based organizations, businesses or corporations.
  • Regulatory policy: rules, guidelines, principles, or methods created by government agencies to regulate products or services.
  • Local laws and ordinances such as local speeding laws.
  • State legislation such as children’s health insurance.
  • Federal legislation such as occupational safety and health standards.

Why is Policy Important?

The effectiveness of policy in protecting children from injury cannot be underestimated. Many effective interventions to control child injury, whether they are directed toward modifying the environment, products, or individual behavior, are rooted in policy.

Policy is a law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, incentive, or voluntary practice of governments and other institutions. Policies are needed to influence systems, promote organizational change, influence social norms, and to modify individual behavior to prevent child injuries. For example, supportive policies can improve environments, remove unreasonable risks from products, and support cultural norms that promote child-safe behaviors.

Policies that require child restraint and seat belt use, bicycle and motorcycle helmet use, graduated driver licensing, smoke alarm installation, child-resistant caps on medicines, hot water heater temperature settings, and pool fencing have saved thousands of lives. Widespread adoption and enforcement of policies, such as those listed above, can save even more lives.

Policies are particularly valuable because they are systems-based and affect populations
by changing the context in which individuals take action.25 Policy interventions can
influence decisions and can create environments for safer living.

Policy Goals and Actions

Goal: Identify child injury prevention needs and priorities for policy leaders and decision makers.

Federal, state, and local policies can affect child injury in different ways, and each level can provide protection to different populations. Federal crash standards for motor vehicles, standards for road construction, or airbag warning labels, for example, affect all who travel with children in cars. State policies can govern vehicle inspections, driver’s licensing, and highway speed limits according to the needs and demographics of the population. Local policies, such as neighborhood speed controls, pool fencing, school district requirements for using protective equipment in sports, and fire safety codes are determined by community priorities and norms. Some states authorize the collection of child injury data to monitor trends and to evaluate interventions to inform policy. Playground safety inspections, for example, might reveal the need for local and state ordinances that require public playgrounds to conform to safety guidelines outlined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.   

Actions:

  • Track and assess child injury prevention policies and environmental supports.
  • Conduct environmental and health impact assessments to highlight child injury prevention needs and identify potential for policy-level interventions to reduce the injury burden.  For example, health impact assessments of a proposed neighborhood development could highlight the need for additional crosswalks so children can safely walk and bike to school.
  • Develop a set of “policy priorities” to improve the safety of children within communities based on the data that show where children are at greatest risk of injury.
  • Conduct policy development workshops, lectures, and summits on the leading causes of child injuries and deaths for decision makers to improve policy-based decisions.  
  • Estimate the impact and cost savings from policy-oriented child injury interventions.
  • Improve national leadership training for child injury policy analysis, implementation, and evaluation. 

Goal: Support the adoption and implementation of evidence-based laws and policies that prevent child injuries.

Legislators, non-government agencies, and grass-roots organizations, all have unique key roles in improving the effectiveness of policy or accelerating the adoption of safety behaviors. Schools and educational institutions that train professionals who work with children are important in this effort. However, other organizations, such as workplaces with adolescent employees or agricultural associations with rural constituents can seek and use evidence-based policies that prevent child injuries.  Several remaining challenges to using policy-based approaches include identifying evidence-based policies, supporting implementation of evidence-based policies, ensuring strong enforcement of policies that protect children, and exploring opportunities for applying the policies that work to different levels of government and in different organizational settings. A critical need exists to evaluate the effectiveness of policies to reduce child injury and to promote an environment where knowledge regarding what works can be shared freely. Such action can also assure that effective policies are replicated by others and that ineffective policies are avoided. 

Actions:

  • Develop a clearinghouse that identifies federal, state, and organizational policies designed to protect children from injury.
  • Integrate child injury prevention into other policy initiatives at the organizational, local, tribal, state, and national levels.  For example, policy initiatives designed to increase physical activity and reduce obesity could also integrate injury prevention components.
  • Support new policies that address injuries at and around child care settings, schools, and worksites employing youth.
  • Expand and improve product safety, housing, and neighborhood/infrastructure policies that influence children’s health, safety, and mobility. For example, policies that require four-sided fencing for homes with swimming pools are important in preventing drowning.
  • Increase the capacity of states, local coalitions, and formal alliances to support policies that prevent childhood injuries.
  • Increase the role of the private sector in developing and implementing effective policies to protect children. For example, businesses that house child care centers can implement policies within their playgrounds or other care settings that increase the safety of these spaces.

Goal: Support compliance with and enforcement of existing child injury prevention policies.

Enforcing policies can be an important part of changing the social environment and can improve compliance. Imposing high fines for non-compliance may work in some settings, but not in all. Sometimes stronger enforcement, or even the perception of stronger enforcement alone may deter unsafe acts.

Actions:

  • Increase employers’ and adolescent workers’ awareness of regulations and standards that address the prevention of workplace injuries to youth and the importance of enforcement.
  • Establish training capacity to provide technical assistance to law enforcement personnel in best practices to enforce child safety policies.
  • Develop and improve compliance with a standardized methodology for conducting child death reviews in accordance with a state’s authorizing legislation, and encourage all states to investigate all injury-related child deaths. 

 

 
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    National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
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