Keeping Kids Safe in Chicago: from Cabrini-Green to Low-Income Neighborhoods All Around the City

The Injury Free Coalition for Kids

Field of Work: Disseminating a model injury prevention program for children and adolescents.

Problem Synopsis: Injury has long been the leading cause of childhood mortality, morbidity and hospital admissions in the United States. Every day about 20 children die from a preventable injury—more than from all diseases combined, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on 2000–06 data.

In 1995 Jackie Royster, a community liaison for Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, visited the Cabrini-Green neighborhood on the city's near north side to learn what parents there thought would help make their children safer. Cabrini-Green was a large, notoriously troubled public housing project. Royster talked to parents in one of the high-rises.

"They told me they'd like a decent playground where the kids could play." Elevators, dark stairways and the streets—those were their children's venues for fun. "They didn't have anything to play on. So they'd play tag, dodging in between cars," Royster recalls.

Synopsis of the Work: The Injury Free Coalition for Kids, a national network of local physician-led, hospital-based programs, prevents childhood injuries through education and environmental change. The participating hospitals use epidemiological data to identify areas with high rates of childhood injury and work with community groups to implement interventions.

In Chicago, Royster joined hospital colleagues in planning construction of a playground in front of the North Burling building—plans that became reality the next summer thanks to donations of money and muscle. Some of the latter came from the Cabrini-Green residents.

Key Results: Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Chicago, a program of Childrens' Memorial Hospital, concentrated initially on reducing unintentional and violence-related injuries to children in Cabrini-Green. Subsequently, it expanded to low-income neighborhoods across the city, focusing on interventions to reduce childhood injuries in three distinct circumstances: at play, at home and in cars and other transportation modes.