Movers & Shakers

An interview with Lloyd Potter, MPH, PhD
Director of the Children's Safety Network

Q: How did you get involved in violence and injury prevention?
As I was finishing up my MPH from Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was preparing to launch the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. I was interested in understanding more about the causes and prevention of violence, so I applied for a position, and I was hired. This resulted in a rapid and deep involvement in youth violence and suicide prevention over the next eight years. In 2000, I joined the Children’s Safety Network and have found the efforts of CSN to assist States with development and evaluation of their childhood injury prevention efforts to be deeply rewarding.

Q: What is one of the most rewarding accomplishments of your career?
My efforts to provide leadership and support in the work that led to publication of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide was one, if not the, most rewarding accomplishment. Publication and dissemination of this document symbolized a substantial launch in a number of federal, state, and local efforts to advance a public health approach to preventing suicide.

Q: Who are our key partners in MCH injury prevention efforts?
Injury prevention, in fact all prevention, occurs where we live, work, and play. Yet all too often, individuals in our society have little or no awareness of their risk for injury or things that they can do to reduce that risk.

Q: What emerging issues do you see within the MCH field?
Injury is the leading cause of death and hospitalized morbidity for children and adolescents. For children, unintentional injuries from motor vehicle crashes, drowning, and fires and burns are of most concern. For adolescents, injuries from motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide are major concerns. Over the past decade, we have seen significant advances in our understanding of effective ways to prevent injuries to children and adolescents. We are beginning to see reviews of evidence based strategies for injury prevention

Q: In this issue of Pulse, several pieces highlight trends in fatalities among children due to motor vehicle crashes, and among teens due to suicides.  Please elaborate on those trends (motor vehicle fatalities, improving; teen suicide, worsening) and what impact this information may have on the maternal and child health care field.
The reduction we’ve seen in motor vehicle death rates among youth aged 0-14 is likely the result of more children being appropriately restrained while riding in a motor vehicle. Public awareness campaigns, car and booster seats that are easier to install correctly are likely behind this trend. State heath department efforts in partnership with organizations such as SafeKids have certainly played a key role leading to this trend. While progress has been made, there are still many children who ride in motor vehicles inappropriately restrained. To maintain the progress made and to facilitate additional progress, MCH involvement to incorporate child passenger safety into child well-being communications and education in various MCH settings is crucial.

The suicide rate among youth aged 15-19 had been declining until 2004 when we saw an increase followed by a slight decline in 2005. Firearm suicide rates in this age group have been gradually declining over this time period at the same time suicide by suffocation (largely hanging) has been increasing and was largely responsible for the increase we saw in 2004. At this point, it is unclear why suicide by suffocation has been increasing, but it is clear that our focus on preventing suicide among youth must expand and we must work to find ways to reach vulnerable youth. MCH can play a key role in efforts to educate clinicians and parents about things they can do to promote mental health and prevent suicide among youth.

Q: What do you do for fun?
I manage my son’s little league baseball team, help with my daughter’s soccer team, and travel and camp with my family.

PDF Download a PDF version of the June edition of Pulse here