Arizona child deaths up in 2021, highest in at least a decade

The report found 863 children died in 2021 but almost half of those deaths were preventable.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 9:08 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - More kids in Arizona died last year, according to the state’s 29th annual child fatality report released in November.

The report found 863 children died in 2021 but almost half of those deaths were preventable. The study says the most preventable childhood deaths in the state are car crashes, firearm injuries, suffocation, poisoning and drowning.

“It can be sad, but I think it also is a learning tool, because along with this report, that you go through a tremendous amount of effort to look at why the deaths occurred, and what could have been done differently and if we see this and we can learn from it, I think that makes all the difference,” Dr. Gary Kirkilas with the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

According to the report, 46 children died from opioid overdoses, 44 of them from fentanyl. It also shows 36 of the opioid overdoses were due to intentional use while the remaining 10 from accidental exposure.

Dr. Kirkilas said parents need to be talking to their kids about the dangers of fentanyl and how one pill can have a dramatic impact on their body and cause them to stop breathing.

“Parents, you know, really commit themselves to talking to their children about, hey, you might go to a party, you might see some of these pills, you need to know that some of these pills contain fentanyl if you take just one of them, that can be enough to end your life. And, you know, arming our parents, arming the pediatricians, arming the public in general about why kids are dying is a great value because then we can prevent these deaths in the future,” Dr. Kirkilas said.

The study also found drownings were up significantly in the state, double the rates from 2020. It was also the most common cause of death in kids one to four years old.

Guns are also one of the most preventable causes of death in kids, according to the study. 75% of these deaths occurred in the 15 to 17 year age group and nearly 80% of them with boys.

“It’s really important for parents that do have guns in their home to keep them locked, to also keep them unloaded, keeping the ammunition and the firearm separate and both locked so that way, if a child were to get hold of it, or if an adolescent who’s experiencing depression and things like that, at least that it’s locked and it makes it more difficult for children to get their hands on those things,” Dr. Kirkilas said.