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South African Journal of Child Health

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Paediatric trauma and safety in the media: An audit of its coverage in a South African broadsheet

JML Hon, AB (Sebastian) van As

Abstract


Objectives. In view of the high rate of paediatric trauma in South Africa, we investigated how much attention – and of what nature – was given in printed media to these incidents, and to the broader subject of child safety.
Methods. Over 4 months, every article in the Cape Argus and Weekend Argus that pertained to either: (i) a traumatic incident involving at least one child under the age of 13; or (ii) other issues involving child safety, was collected. With each article, the number of columns and pictures published was recorded and used as a gauge of media attention. Traumatic incidents were categorised by cause, and the media attention dedicated to each of these was compared with actual admission figures to the Trauma Unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, the only dedicated unit for children in Cape Town.
Results. Ninety-five articles met the inclusion criteria: 61 (64%) reported incidents involving paediatric trauma, 29 (31%) were
related to child safety, and 5 (5%) covered both. Of the articles that reported specific incidents, non-accidental injuries were the
most frequently published (68%), and of these sexual assault was by far the most written-about cause (52% of total incidents published). However, non-accidental injuries accounted for only 4% of total trauma admissions at Red Cross Hospital, behind almost every other cause of paediatric trauma including motor vehicle accidents (15% of  admissions).
Conclusions. Media attention given to different causes of paediatric trauma is significantly skewed. From a prevention perspective, it would be more appropriate to give greater emphasis to motor vehicle accidents, in line with actual figures for paediatric trauma admissions.



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