Unique UAMS Car Seat Safety Program Keeps Newborns ‘Safe From the Start’

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A $24,500 grant from the Little Rock-based telecommunications giant Alltel will allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to expand its Safe from the Start child safety seat program to include all infants born at the facility.


UAMS Medical Center is the only hospital with a labor and delivery unit in Arkansas to have a comprehensive child safety seat program.


The grant makes it possible for the hospital to offer its Safe from the Start child safety seat program to the parents of all newborns delivered there. Previously the program focused on premature and low birth weight infants.


An important component of the UAMS Safe from the Start program includes the use of a specialized test to determine if a premature or low birth weight infant can adequately breathe in a car seat’s semi-reclined position.


“By providing funds to UAMS for its Safe from the Start program, Alltel is able to continue its longstanding support of Arkansas families. We at Alltel are proud to play a part in making this successful program available to the more than 2,000 parents who give birth at UAMS each year,” said Natalie Gentry, vice president of retail services at Alltel.


The angle tolerance test is administered at UAMS to infants born prior to 37 weeks gestation, weighing less than five pounds at birth or experiencing a medical problem placing them at risk. Infants failing the test may require the use of a car bed allowing them to lie in a prone position rather than a semi-reclined position.


UAMS’ Safe from the Start program offers general child passenger safety education to parents, including how to select and properly install child safety seats. Parents also are provided an instructional video to view at the hospital and are informed of Arkansas’ Child Passenger Protection Law, which states that all children younger than 6 or weighing less than 60 pounds must be restrained in an appropriate car seat. A program complementary to the program for newborns at UAMS is offered in the neonatal intensive care unit at UAMS’ pediatric affiliate hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital


 “We want to empower parents with the best possible education concerning the use of child safety seats,” said Betsey Mowery, Safe from the Start program coordinator. “Because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and disability for children in Arkansas, it is a priority at UAMS that all new parents leave the hospital knowing how to select and use their child’s car safety seat. Alltel’s generous gift couldn’t have come at a better time as we work to expand the program and provide this important safety information to as many parents as possible.”


When correctly installed, child safety seats are 71 percent effective in reducing death for infants involved in a vehicular crash. Low birth weight infants are at a particularly high risk for injury; UAMS houses the largest high-risk obstetric program in the state.


To aid in the program, approximately 200 UAMS staff members have received a four-hour training session to become child passenger safety (CPS) advocates capable of providing general child passenger safety education. In addition, 13 UAMS nurses have attended a five-day training session and are certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as child passenger safety (CPS) technicians. Only CPS technicians can teach proper car seat installation techniques.


“Before new mothers are discharged from UAMS, our CPS advocates assess whether the seat they have is appropriate, if it has been recalled or if it is damaged. While the technicians can teach the proper installation methods, the advocates can empower the parents with information on how to select and use their child’s car seat,” Mowery said.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,200 students and 660 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.1 billion a year.


UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.