17 Million Children Live More Than an Hour Away From Trauma Care

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , June 8, 2009

Access to pediatric trauma centers is often variable—and sometimes even inadequate—in many parts of the United States, according to a new study by researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. Overall, more than 17 million American children (about 30% of the population ages 1 -14) live more than an hour away by ground or air transportation from a pediatric trauma center.

In their review, the researchers were able to identify 170 pediatric trauma centers across the country, said Michael Nance, MD, the study's lead author and director of the Trauma Program at Children's Hospital.

However, even after locating the centers, large gaps in service areas were noticed. The largest holes were found mostly in rural areas: Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming provided almost no access to a verified pediatric trauma centers less than an hour away. Most children, though, living in areas such as the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island were found to be within 60 minutes of pediatric trauma care.

The difficulty in coming up with the total number of pediatric trauma centers is linked to the way the centers are certified nationally: The American College of Surgeons verifies half of the trauma centers in U.S.; other facilities are verified at the state levels. However, they noticed differing standards, Nance said: "What qualifies for a trauma center in one state may not qualify in another state."

Among children ages 1 to 14, injury causes more deaths than all other causes combined so quicker access to children's pediatric trauma centers is important.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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