Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
July 24, 2009

Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287


Child Death Review Team Issues Report

Lincoln—The state’s Child Death Review Team has issued its report on child deaths that occurred in 2005 and 2006, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

The team is charged by statute with reviewing all deaths of children ages 0 to 17 in the state and making recommendations for reducing future deaths.

The rate of death to Nebraska children has been decreasing but there are still serious concerns, said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Division of Public Health.

“It’s important to note that every death of a child is traumatic,” Schaefer said. “These children help us understand issues of preventable deaths. These children are not statistics, but as a whole, they will help us protect countless children in the future.”

There were 539 deaths among children in 2005 and 2006. Slightly over half of all deaths (55 percent) were of infants less than 12 months old. Of these, over half (61 percent) died in their first month.

Infant mortality rates in the state have been declining over the past decade, from 7.4 in 1997 to 5.7 in 2006.

One out of four child deaths were attributable to pregnancy-related causes, a combined category of maternal complications during pregnancy, labor and delivery, as well as prematurity.

Birth defects were the second leading cause of death. Heart defects were the most common.

Motor vehicle crashes were the third leading cause of death, followed by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in fifth place. There were 31 deaths attributed to SIDS in 2005, the highest number since 1996.

There were 36 deaths among teens by suicide, 50 percent higher than in 2000 and more than twice the national rate.

Deaths to racial and ethnic minority children continue to be unacceptably high, Dr. Schaefer said. Sudden infant death and conditions related to pregnancy continue to be the largest contributors to higher mortality rates in non-white children.

The team estimated that over one-third of all child deaths were preventable through basic parental education and information, and child-friendly public health policies.

“I want to thank chairperson Dr. Joe Acierno and the other committee members for their extensive time, expertise and dedication to do the study of all these deaths, which are so very say,” Schaefer said.

The Child Death Review Team’s recommendations include:

  • A comprehensive investigation of the circumstances should be made for all unexpected infant deaths, including a complete autopsy.

  • A dialogue should be held among health professionals, consumer groups, cultural organizations and others on the importance of placing a baby on his back to sleep and the risks of bed sharing.

  • Children age 6 months and older should receive the seasonal flu vaccine.

  • Parents should keep their children’s immunizations up to date.

  • Children should always be wearing age-appropriate restraints in a motor vehicle.

  • Bike helmets should be worn by children when they ride a bicycle.

  • Parents and caregivers should always supervise children near water.

  • Medicines and household products should be stored in their original containers, locked up and where children can’t reach or see them.

  • Teenagers should have access to confidential mental health services.

For the complete report go to the DHHS Web site at

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