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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Child deaths subject of bill in Kansas Senate

February 10, 2014

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— Supporters of a bill before the Kansas Senate say it could help improve research on the cause of children's deaths.

Kansas collects information on child deaths through the State Child Death Review Board, which publishes statistics each year on deaths and causes, seeking to pinpoint trends and develop prevention strategies. The board reviewed 391 deaths in 2011, most of which resulted from natural causes.

Researchers aren't allowed to get more detailed information about the deaths because of privacy concerns, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Under the proposed bill, researchers would still not have direct access to information on child deaths. But academics, research organizations, nonprofit groups and governmental agencies would be able to apply to the review board for non-personally identifiable, aggregate data.

In the case of sudden, unexpected infant deaths, for example, researchers could seek information about whether babies were placed to sleep with or without blankets. The review board could provide that information as long as it couldn't be used to identify a child.

Kansas Action for Children and other groups hope the research can improve efforts to prevent child deaths.

"The bill is straightforward," said Christie Appelhanz, head of the Kansas Action of Children. "The change costs taxpayers nothing, yet would make our state a safer place to grow up."

The Centers for Disease Control said in 2010 that the national mortality rate for children up to age 14 was 17 deaths among every 100,000 children. In Kansas, it was 22 deaths in every 100,000 children.

Angela Nordhus, director of the Kansas Child Death Review Board, said the board would support the bill if the identities of children are protected.

The bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where several groups testified in support late last month. No one testified against it.

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