Public Health Campaign Pays Off: Window Falls Drop by 50 Percent

June 06, 2018

The number of window falls in Chicago children under 5 was cut in half over a 15-year period since the launch of Lurie Children’s – led “Stop the Falls” campaign

In 2001, when 30 children under 5 fell out of a window, Chicago was facing a public health crisis that was preventable. By 2016, window falls were cut in half after the 2002 launch of an educational campaign called “Stop the Falls” that urges families of young children to never open windows more than four inches and to use child-safety window stoppers or window guards.

This data comes from a study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which leads the campaign that was created by the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Chicago. The data also show that kids fell from the second story windows at the highest frequency, and that the majority of injuries were to the head. Window falls occurred throughout Chicago, mostly in the summer and primarily in boys.

“We are encouraged to see solid evidence that ‘Stop the Falls’ is a highly effective public health initiative, significantly reducing the rate of window falls in Chicago children, thanks to long-time support from Kohl’s Cares,” says Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Lurie Children’s who conducted the study. She also is the Medical Director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Chicago and Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Falls are the leading cause of injuries in children, and they are completely preventable. We remain steadfast in our commitment to reach parents with critical safety messages on public transportation, radio, TV, health fairs and brochures in the communities.”

Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke also played a key role as the campaign champion. He brought it to the city’s attention in 2002, presenting a resolution before the City Council that recognized window falls as a serious problem and commended the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Chicago for its efforts to reduce the risk of injury to children from window falls.

“I am proud to have been an early advocate for this campaign and I am gratified to see that the numbers of these tragic and highly preventable incidents have significantly declined,” says Alderman Burke. “I commend the coalition for its extensive outreach programs which have made a real and lasting impact in helping to reduce the number of window-related falls in Chicago. And since most window falls occur in the spring and summer months, the time is right to redouble our efforts and remind parents of young children to remain vigilant.”

As part of the campaign, Chicago aldermen were provided posters and brochures to distribute within their communities and they were alerted if a window fall occurred in their jurisdiction. Partnerships with Housing and Urban Development buildings allowed the distribution of information for parents and window sash stops. Efforts to make buildings safer included educating property managers on window safety, distributing window sash stops and stoppers, and offering window guards at reduced prices.

Other partners in the campaign include Stroger Hospital of Cook County, University of Chicago Medicine (Comer Children’s Hospital), Mt. Sinai Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, Illinois Department of Public Health and Chicago Department of Public Health.

“We have more work to do,” stresses Dr. Sheehan. “Our goal is to prevent all window falls in the city, keeping every child safe.”

Download the Stop the Falls Data Brief. 

Dr. Sheehan also is the Medical Director of Lurie Children’s Healthy Communities initiative, which works with community and philanthropic partners on improving the health of children and adolescents in Chicago neighborhoods.

Injury prevention research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Injury Prevention & Research Center at Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals in the U.S.News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Last year, the hospital served more than 208,000 children from 50 states and 58 countries.