Child mortality data and public health priorities

I came across this chart looking at mortality data for children and adolescents between ages 1-19. (Source: NEJM)

While the thought of losing a child is both morbid and heartbreaking, I’m not one to avoid the thought. I had 3 reflections as I looked at this data –

(1) The sudden spike in drug overdose and poisoning between 2018-2020 is noteworthy. It captures the effect COVID-19 had on adolescents – a ~80% increase in drug overdoses likely made possible by the easy availability of opioids.

(2) Similarly, the other effect of COVID-19 lockdowns was firearm related injuries – which took the #1 spot over motor vehicle crashes. I’m not sure what caused this – was it just the availability of firearms at home? Also, I’m not sure why they were trending up starting 2014 either.

(3) I think there’s the obvious question – will the above trends hold as the pandemic? We’ll know when we get newer data in a year or two. But if you’re working in public health or are parenting teenage children, the areas to focus on are very clear – drugs and guns.

While drugs might be a global problem, guns are a US-only circumstance that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

That this is the status quo is tragic.