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March 18, 1999

Pitt, city schools introduce kids' safety program

Pitt, city schools introduce kids' safety program

Traumatic injury is the leading cause of death in young people, and more than 100,000 people in the United States each year are permanently disabled because of brain and spinal cord injuries.

Pitt's Center for Injury Research and Control (CIRCL) and the department of neurological surgery have teamed up with Pittsburgh schools to present a brain and spinal cord injury prevention program called Think First for Kids to first-, second- and third-g raders.

"About 10 to 15 percent of brain injuries in children are severe, and those who survive these injuries are often left with permanent neurological disabilities," said Donald Marion, CIRCL director and head of neurological trauma at UPMC. "Although less com mon than brain injury, there are about 12,000 new spinal cord injuries every year in this country with 10 percent occurring in children. One of the best ways to address prevention of these traumatic injuries is to provide early and timely educational and interventional services."

The presentation focuses on five areas: vehicular safety, bicycle safety, playground safety, water safety and violence. Each hour-long lesson begins with a videotape that introduces safety messages. Messages are then reinforced by posters, coloring books and comic strips featuring StreetSmart, a safety superhero.

Paula Kovanic-Spiro, CIRCL researcher and course director, said, "To understand the impact and effectiveness of this program, we plan to perform an evaluation of student awareness and behavior before and after participating in the Think First program."

Think First for Kids was developed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Nationwide more than 4 million children have participated in the program.

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