Safety by Design: Preventing injuries in developing countries by improving the quality of motorcycle helmets
Recent increases in motorcycles have contributed to traffic crashes emerging as the leading cause of death for young adults in developing countries. While helmets are among the few effective interventions for motorcyclists, global reviews show that most helmets in developing countries have not been certified for head injury protection. Thus many national and international agencies are investing substantial efforts to eliminate uncertified helmets and increase helmet use. However, uncertified helmets are substantially cheaper and there is little empirical evidence of their poor performance.
We will conduct impact tests on a representative sample of helmets sold in developing countries and evaluate their safety performance. Next, we will compare the additional cost to individuals of buying a certified helmet with the expected health gain (DALYs averted) and compare this to other health investments. We will also evaluate population-level health effects of potential increase or decrease in helmet use due to the interaction of helmet prices and enforcement of standards. Finally, we will assess if it is possible for uncertified helmets to provide substantial protection through adequate head coverage and foam thickness alone.
In order to establish a sustainable funding stream for helmet research and development at JHSPH, we will do preliminary research on two topics. We will develop a proof-of-principle prototype for a low-cost, portable, rapid helmet test device (indicating head form) intended for use in a field setting (such as a helmet store). We will also conduct preliminary research on a generalizable methodology for identifying appropriate helmet test conditions for different countries.
Nathan Scott, PhD, Whiting School of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering ; Kent Stevens, MD, MPH, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery , Adnan Hyder, MD, PHD, Public Health, International Health