The PROTECT Initiative is a CDC-led public-private partnership that uses a collaborative, data-driven approach to reduce harms from unintentional medication overdoses in children.


In 2008, CDC convened a meeting of public health agencies, manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications and medication packaging, poison control centers, healthcare professional societies, consumer and patient advocates, and national experts in poisoning, health literacy and patient safety to assess and address the public health problem of medication overdoses in children.

The PROTECT partnership initially focused on preventing OTC medication overdoses, but has expanded to focus on unintentional overdoses of prescription medications by young children as well.

Partners / Participants

The focus areas of the PROTECT Initiative are guided by national data on emergency department (ED) visits for medication overdoses.  The prevention activities are implemented by the initiative’s partners, including:

  • Private Sector Partners: pharmaceutical manufacturers, packaging companies, and pharmacy retailers
  • Medical Professional Organizations
  • Non-profit and National Standards Organizations
  • Healthcare and Academic Institutions
  • Government Agencies

Primary Objective: To prevent unintentional medication overdoses in children

Measurable Goal:  To reduce ED visits for unintentional medication overdoses in children.  Reducing ED visits for medication overdoses among children less than 5 years of age is a HealthyPeople 2030 objective for the nation.


PROTECT Initiative activities are guided by national data on ED visits for medication overdoses among young children. Based on these data, PROTECT Initiative participants focused on 4 key activities to prevent unintentional overdoses in children. These activity areas remain the core of PROTECT’s 3-pronged approach to keeping children safe from unintentional medication overdoses.

  1. Packaging Improvements to prevent or minimize exposure to medication when young children find and try to ingest medications on their own (unsupervised medication ingestions)
  2. Error Prevention through standardization of medication labels and dosing devices
  3. Education on Safe Medication Use and Storage to remind parents and caregivers about the importance of safe medication storage, how to store medications safely, and what to do in case of emergency

Research and Evaluation activities assess progress and identify new issues or information gaps for each of the 3 key activity areas.

Safety Improvements

Continued active engagement and dedication of PROTECT partners has resulted in substantial progress in each of the key activity areas.