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Why is Research Important?

During the last four decades, research has contributed to developing the science of injury prevention and control. Research has helped us create and implement new, effective interventions to prevent child injury, such as bicycle helmets, child passenger restraint devices, smoke alarms, and graduated licensing programs. However, additional research is needed to advance prevention efforts and to address new and emerging child injury issues.

Public health research falls into three general areas: 1) foundational, 2) intervention development and evaluation, and 3) translational. Foundational research explains why injuries occur to children and adolescents and identifies risk and protective factors. Evaluation research provides evidence of what works and can help guide the use of limited resources available for prevention. Once those interventions have been developed and proven effective, they must be disseminated and broadly implemented.  Translational research examines the best ways to increase widespread adoption of proven effective prevention strategies. All three types of research are needed to advance our knowledge about reducing childhood injuries. 

Each cause of unintentional injury (i.e. motor vehicle crashes, drowning, and fires/burns) requires different types and levels of investment in research. This is because what we know about risk and what prevention strategies work varies for each of these causes. For example, we particularly need foundational research to understand new and emerging hazards such as cell phone use and texting while driving, walking, and biking. Yet with smoke alarms and bicycle helmets, we need translational research to find ways to ensure that these lifesaving technologies are available to everyone who needs them.

Research Goals and Actions

Goal: Fill gaps in knowledge about preventing child injuries by conducting multidisciplinary research on risk and protective factors, intervention effectiveness, and knowledge translation. 

New basic research drives the development of new tools and strategies to address the ongoing problem of child injury. Advances in understanding risk taking behaviors and evaluation research can be made by incorporating disciplines that have not typically been involved in injury research—such as cognitive and developmental psychology, computer science, neuroscience, and genetics—with those that have been traditionally involved—such as engineering, biostatistics, epidemiology, demography, behavioral sciences, and law.

Although there is some understanding in the field about the effectiveness of specific prevention strategies (e.g., legislation, commercial products and technologies, behavior change, skills training), research is needed on the most cost-effective and sustainable ways to apply and disseminate these strategies. Communities need translational research on methods and resources that support efficient and sustainable applications of proven injury prevention strategies.


  • Conduct interdisciplinary research on the causes of child injury and basic descriptive epidemiology on emerging hazards.
  • Conduct research on risk-taking behavior of children and the relationship among developmental status, parent and caregiver behaviors and sociodemographics, and their influence on child injury.
  • Conduct engineering and behavioral science research to delineate the factors influencing child injury occurrence and severity to inform intervention development.
  • Conduct quantitative, qualitative, multifaceted, and economic analyses to identify the most efficacious, effective, and cost-effective interventions for children and youth.
  • Use advanced statistical tools, methodologies, and comparative effectiveness trials in child injury research and incorporate evaluation components into all programmatic funding.
  • Incorporate participatory and community-based methods and include end users in the design and conduct of child injury research.
  • Conduct dissemination research to understand how to successfully promote effective prevention strategies (e.g., using social media and the Internet).

There is a need for a better fit between research findings and current practices in child injury prevention programs. Many proven strategies that could save children’s lives are inadequately implemented or simply never adopted.
- Grant Baldwin, PhD, MPH

Goal: Harmonize and coordinate child injury research at the national and state levels.

Public health needs coordinated, multidisciplinary expertise—at both the national and state levels—to build effective prevention strategies for addressing child injury. In particular, partnerships among the federal government, state public health agencies, academia, and the private sector, among other stakeholders, are at the core of child injury prevention research and practice. We need stronger partnerships to perform all types of injury research—foundational, evaluation, and translational.

Specifically, we need to collaborate at the national and state levels to address that no single research project or data collection effort can provide information about all types of child injury. However, funding opportunities do not often give researchers incentive or encouragement to collaborate or partner with other stakeholders. For example, academic researchers typically have few opportunities to collaborate with the business community where innovation in technology often happens rapidly.


  • Develop a national research agenda for child injury prevention and a plan to enhance partnerships for conducting research.
  • Increase the number of agencies and components of the federal government that include child injury in their research portfolios.
  • Increase the number of child injury researchers and research grants through broad cross-agency program announcements, joint funding mechanisms, public-private initiatives, and through including child injury into child health funding opportunity announcements (FOAs).
  • Use existing activities (e.g., National Children’s Study) and sources of funding (e.g., Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds and home visiting funds) to support child injury prevention research.
  • Increase support to states and territories to conduct primary research and program evaluation and coordinate multi-state research initiatives.
  • Establish a national clearinghouse for child injury research findings and applications.

Goal: Conduct research to reduce disparities in child injury.

Public health practitioners have developed many proven, effective countermeasures to child injury, and overall child deaths due to unintentional injuries in the United States have been declining. However, certain populations in this country have not shared these gains. Injury risks vary by socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and geography. For example, low-income and minority children suffer an unequal burden of injury. In addition, the types of injuries that rural and urban children experience vary considerably.


  • Identify the key indicators related to child injury disparities and develop strategies to reduce them.
  • Include child injury research in federal and state funding that addresses strategies to reduce health disparities in the population.
  • Support the preparation of a report on the status of health and injury disparities among children and youth, and mechanisms and programs to reduce such disparities. 


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