The group - which includes county Coroner Halbert E. Fillinger Jr., county health director Robert Gage; and Steven Shapiro, pediatrics director at Suburban General Hospital - was formed two years ago to discuss what could be done to prevent children from dying unnecessarily.
County health official Laurel Spielberg said a close look at the statistics showed that teenagers were not getting the message about seat-belt use and the dangers of speeding. Increased education or requirements for a driver's license could be the answer, she said, but the group did not set specific requirements for the measures.
``They tend to be less experienced drivers and have difficulty in dangerous situations,'' she said yesterday at the review team's meeting. ``They may often fail to wear seat belts or drink and drive. Teenagers also have other distractions while they're driving, such as overcrowding and music.''
The team also is recommending universal screening for genetic metabolic disorders among newborns, additional programs on gun safety, and revisions to the county's pedestrian-safety program.
In its analysis, the group found that during 1996 and 1997, about half of all childhood deaths occurred in infancy, while half of all infant deaths took place during the first two days after birth for extremely premature newborns.
Also during the same period, six homicides were investigated, two of which were due to child abuse.
Six teenagers committed suicide during 1996 and 1997, according to the report. The fact that only one of those suicide victims had contact with a county agency is telling, Shapiro said.
The team is suggesting improved access to suicide-prevention programs among teenagers and more education about suicide warning signals.
The report's release coincides with the county commissioners' push to lower the county's high infant-mortality rates. The county's 1994-1996 infant-mortality rate of 6.4 per 1,000 live births was below the statewide average of 7.8 per 1,000, according to the health department. However, the county seat of Norristown had the state's fifth-highest rate at 17.9 per 1,000 infant live births between 1994 and 1996.
A health department report outlining ways to limit the amount of infant deaths is due to be released Friday.