World Health Org - Spring 2009 Newsletter


WHO -Headlines Newsletter Spring 2009

Spring 2009 Editorial


EDITORIAL: If You Believe in Something, Set an Example


In the last issue of Headlines, we wrote about motorcycle helmets and proposed an easy way to look like a genius. That was to simply look at the United States of America states where helmet laws had been modified, examine the data for injuries, come to the conclusion that helmets were effective, and – here’s where the genius part comes in – pass laws to require helmet wearing.


This month, we have another opportunity to look like a genius. How can a physician be effective in promoting helmets when he or she doesn’t wear them?


Elsewhere in this issue of Headlines, we review a study from the Netherlands that examined Dutch pediatricians’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviour about bicycle helmet wearing. Although almost all of them ride bicycles, they do so without wearing helmets. Yet, over 90% of the pediatricians believe helmets are effective in preventing injuries, and 82% would advise children to wear bicycle helmets.


Who would listen to the advice of someone who says one thing and does another?


For health promotion, it’s not just a case of educating and encouraging patients to change their health behaviour. Healthcare providers have to believe in  and practise what they are recommending to their patients. It would be hard to get the message that smoking is dangerous if the physician telling you that smoked! So too, with helmets. Physicians – or any health provider, community leaders, or parents – can’t be role models for helmet promotion if they themselves don’t wear them. Too often, we see kids and parents riding bicycles; the kids are wearing helmets, but their parents are not. What’s the message that child is getting? Helmets are for kids! That it’s okay when he or she grows up not to wear a helmet! That’s not a good message.


So remember, when you are talking about helmets and promoting their use to others, you are not only the expert and the authority but also a role model. You need to be wearing your helmet too.


As ever, we welcome your comments and contributions to Headlines.


Philip L. Graitcer

Facilitator, WHO Helmet Initiative



UK: Do helmets attract cars?
Recently, in the journal, Accident Analysis and Prevention, there was a curious published report that leaves us wondering what to think about the interaction between bicyclists and motorists. read more

U.S. and the Netherlands: Getting Patients to Wear Helmets
Two recent articles – both concerning education of patients about helmets – come to two very different conclusions. read more

Nigeria: Bikers Wearing Vegetable Helmets
In the northern city of Kano, motorcyclists are dodging new laws that force them to wear helmets by wearing dried pumpkin shells. The pumpkin shells are called calabashes and more commonly used to carry liquids. read more

International: New Cochrane Database Report on Helmets
Although bicycle helmet use has been mandated by legislation in several US states and in some countries, mandatory legislation remains a controversial issue. Some critics argue that mandatory helmet use may inhibit people from bicycle riding and thus from gaining the associated health benefits of physical exercise. Others question helmets’ effectiveness, believing that other countermeasures may be responsible for the decline in head injuries. read more

India: Road Safety Report Released
Dinesh Mohan and his colleagues at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and Strategic Worldwide Transportation 2020 have released a comprehensive report, Road Safety in India: Challenges and Opportunities. read more

China: Improper Helmet Use in Provincial Areas
A recent study has shown that there is a huge gap between knowledge and practice when it comes to helmet wearing in two provincial areas of China. While nearly 90% of motorcycle riders and passengers believed that helmets were effective, only about 32% wore wearing them correctly. read more