January 29, 2019

World Health Organization Report Supports Need for Traffic Safety Awareness Programs

The World Health Organization (WHO) released their “Global status report on road safety 2018” in December 2018, noting that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years, worldwide.[1]  Michael Bloomberg, Founder and CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries noted, “Road safety is an issue that does not receive anywhere near the attention it deserves – and it really is one of our great opportunities to save lives around the world. We know which interventions work. Strong policies and enforcement, smart road design, and powerful public awareness campaigns can save millions of lives over the coming decades.”[2] 

In the United States, traffic-related injuries are a leading cause of death and disability for all age groups and the number one cause of death for ages five through 24. While non-fatal traffic-related injuries, including those to the brain and spinal cord, can lead to permanent disabilities, others such as bone fractures, lacerations, back injuries and sprains also account for high numbers of emergency room visits and lost work time.[3]

The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation provides public awareness programs that emphasize traffic safety. Since 1986, the mission of ThinkFirst has been to prevent brain, spinal cord and other traumatic injuries through education, research and advocacy by providing training and community outreach programs for injury prevention educators. Ready-to-use programs are designed for hospital or medically-based chapters to implement at their center, in schools or at other community settings. Developed by nurses, health educators and physicians, ThinkFirst programs are integral in increasing public awareness of:

§  How traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries occur

§  How injuries can affect your body and your life, and

§  How injuries can be prevented through safety measures, including driving safe and sober, reducing speed and distractions while driving, wearing seat belts and helmets, safety as a bicycle rider and pedestrian, and more

ThinkFirst programs are accessible through a growing network of more than 130 U.S. chapters and 30 international chapters, located in most Canadian provinces, Mexico, Peru, Italy, Jordan, Jamaica, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal, Guinea, Columbia, Honduras, India, Taiwan, Chile, Pakistan, Singapore, and Qatar. Chapter training is offered online, onsite, or at annual ThinkFirst conferences. Trained chapters are provided with everything needed to present ThinkFirst’s various age-specific programs, including presentation videos, PowerPoint slides, scripts, handouts, and evaluation tools. Materials are continuously updated, and monthly e-newsletters keep chapter directors informed. The knowledgeable staff provides prompt guidance and support. In addition, continuing education for ThinkFirst injury prevention professionals is available through the annual ThinkFirst Conference on Injury Prevention, held in conjunction with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) annual meeting.

ThinkFirst’s advocacy for injury prevention has been enhanced via a recent partnership with General Motors (GM). Through a grant which began September 1, 2018, ThinkFirst’s project ‘Expanding Traffic Safety Programs to High Risk Road Users’ is working on expanding the number of trained chapters in the U.S. by 26 in the first year. The increased number of hospitals and medical centers using ThinkFirst educational traffic safety-related programs will increase the number of people learning from them, leading to improved safety behaviors and fewer traffic crashes and related injuries. Grant funding is also helping ThinkFirst enhance educational materials and messaging through media outlets, social media, and posted curriculum for public use.

For more information on ThinkFirst programs and starting a ThinkFirst chapter, please visit www.thinkfirst.org.

[1] Global status report on road safety 2018: summary. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018 (WHO/NMH/NVI/ 18.20). Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO).

[2] New WHO report highlights insufficient progress to tackle lack of safety on the world's roads, 7 December 2018, News Release. Geneva: World Health Organization.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2016.