Children’s Hospital Safety Store allows parents affordable access to injury prevention

The Safety Store, located in Stead Family Children’s Hospital, offers a wide range of products intended to prevent unintentional injury at an affordable price.


Michael Guhin

Safety equipment is displayed in the UIHC Safety Store inside of the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Friday, June 6, 2019(Michael Guhin/The Daily Iowan)

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

Unintentional accidents are the leading cause of death for children under 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention — but for new parents, finding the best ways to prevent injuries can be overwhelming as well as expensive.

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital’s Safety Store features affordable access to a wide range of products intended to prevent injury, from baby gates and outlet covers to car seats and bike helmets.

The idea of a safety store began in 2008, when the Children’s Hospital was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Association of Children’s Hospitals to start a safety store. The grant allows the Safety Store to offer products at prices much lower than the market price.

Pam Hoogerwerf, the coordinator of the Children’s Hospital’s community outreach and injury prevention, said the Safety Store is the foundation of the hospital’s injury-prevention efforts.

“We don’t want price to be a barrier for families to purchase these products,” she said. “We keep our product pricing very low — probably lower than you’re going to see at most other places, whether it’s online or in a retail store. We want families to be able to utilize the products to hopefully be able to prevent an injury.”

The store originally was a mobile cart that traveled to various wards in the hospital before moving into a lobby location in the new Stead Children’s Hospital. The store’s products are also available for purchase online.

Some of the store’s most popular items include car seats and swaddles, as well as bike helmets, which the store sells for $9.

Hoogerwerf said the original grant funding for the store allowed it to keep prices low.

“The luxury of our not having to spend the initial grant money on construction or remodeling space in the hospital here and being able to spend the majority of it on the product inventory really has allowed us to be able to order more product and to sell product,” she said. “That’s been a big benefit to us.”

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Injury-prevention experts work in the store, educating families on safety and injury prevention and working to find unique solutions for each family’s specific needs.

Iowa ranks slightly higher than the national average in injury-related deaths for children aged birth-19. In 2017, the overall rate of deaths from injury in the United States was 39.98 deaths per 100,000 children. In Iowa, the rate was 44.2 deaths per 100,000 children, according to the CDC.

The Children’s Hospital was the first hospital in the state to open a safety store. Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines opened a safety store in 2018.

Brenda Vergara, a storekeeper at the Safety Store, said the store is not only a place for parents to buy affordable products, it is also a place for new parents to get answers from injury-prevention experts.

“I think here in the Safety Store — our biggest selling item and education point — a lot of [customers] are new parents,” she said. ‘They come here a little bit frazzled with how much information is online, and they kind of want to narrow down whatever they’re looking for.”

The store also puts on outreach events promoting bike safety and partners with the Iowa City Moms Blog on an event called “Mom Talks,” which covers various topics in injury prevention.

One regular customer has been Barbara Grabin, a UIHC patient account representative, who has frequented the Safety Store since her grandson was born four years ago.

“I’ve just always gone there for everything I need for both my grandkids,” she said. “They’re very good at being very knowledgeable — they work with you.”

Vergara stressed that the mission of the Safety Store goes beyond selling products.

“Not just being a store — we definitely want education to be a big part of what we do,” she said. “People come in here — we really want to make sure that they feel confident and educated about things they have questions about.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly named Pam Hoogerwerf the coordinator for University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics’ community outreach and injury prevention. It has been corrected to coordinator of the Children’s Hospital’s community outreach and injury prevention.