Intentional head injuries to children more than figures show

Official figures showing only 13 per cent of head and neck injuries in children were intentional may reflect inadequate information recording, a University of Otago academic told delegates at the Paediatric Society of New Zealand's 65th annual scientific meeting in Dunedin yesterday.

New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service acting director Dr Jean Simpson presented paediatric head/neck injury and fatality data from 2006-10.

While 19 per cent of fatal head and neck injuries in children aged 0-14 was recorded as assault, 13 per cent of hospital admissions for head/neck injuries were recorded as assault.

Injuries and deaths in children under the age of 1 were the most likely to be recorded as assault.

Dr Simpson said there were valid questions over the injury figures' accuracy.

"It's quite a major issue in terms of the national data that we collect and how accurately it conveys the real situation," she told the Otago Daily Times after the session.

Two Auckland delegates also questioned the accuracy of the data during the session.

One said the numbers of intentional incidents were certainly higher, based on the cases she had personally witnessed.

An Auckland paediatrician said injuries were likely to be recorded as accidental in discharge data, which was not updated with later developments like investigations or prosecutions.

She said the issue highlighted the need for agencies to share health data.

"That's why we need to use the [National Health Index number] across all Government agencies because if we did you could collate the data with [Child Youth and Family] data because it would have the same unique identifier."

Asked for further comment after the session, she said the issue was political, and declined to be named.

Overall, children were most likely sustain a fatal head/neck injury in a motor vehicle crash, while the most common recorded cause of non-fatal injury was falls.

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