Friday, December 14, 2001

Program aims to reduce injuries to Avondale's kids

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati pediatric health experts and Avondale neighborhood leaders are trying to prevent childhood injuries by promoting safer playgrounds, arts, crafts and pee-wee football.

        Children's Hospital Medical Center has received a five-year $266,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch an injury prevention program for children living in Avondale.

        In 1999, Avondale ranked third-highest among all Hamilton County neighborhoods, with 646 injured children seeking treatment at Children's Hospital's emergency department.

        The program plans to go beyond traditional safety messages, such as promoting bike helmet and seat belt use, to helping build a safer community, sponsors say.

        “I've lived in Avondale for 15 years and I was surprised by the injury rate,” said the program's community coordinator Gayle Harden-Renfro. “We need to establish positive, safe havens where kids can go and play out of harm's way.”

        Even before the grant was formally awarded, the Avondale child safety program had started earlier this year with Children's Hospital teaming with the city recreation department to build a safety-focused playground off Blair Avenue.

        Early next year, officials plan to start construction of a Pee Wee football stadium behind South Avondale Elementary School. The stadium is being funded with about $125,000 in grants from the LISC Foundation and the Cincinnati Bengals.

        Another planned project would involve expanding computer activities at neighborhood schools.

        “By getting kids involved in structured, supervised activities, it not only teaches them some things about life, it keeps them off the streets so that they are less likely to get hit by cars or play in dangerous places,” said Dr. Mike Gittleman, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital's ER and co-director of the Injury Free Coalition of Greater Cincinnati.

        Westwood and East Price Hill have more childhood injuries per year than Avondale. The hospital picked Avondale because it was closest, Dr. Gittleman said.


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