Education And Debate

Road safety advocacy

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 08 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:888
  1. Jeanne Breen, international road safety policy consultant (
  1. 1London SW13 ONZ
  • Accepted 22 March 2004

Health professionals have an important role in implementing measures to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads

As many as 50 million people each year may be injured in road traffic crashes globally—a total representing the combined populations of Beijing, Delhi, London, Paris, and New York.1 Without increased safety effort to match the growing number of motor vehicles in low to middle income countries, road traffic injury is predicted be the third leading contributor to the global burden of disease and injury by 2020.2 Heeding such a forecast, the World Health Organization this week placed road safety advocacy high on the agenda for public health professionals, alongside other key activities.1 According to WHO, “hidden epidemics” such as road traffic deaths and injuries receive relatively little national or international attention.3 Without solid action now, the forecast looks bleak over the next decades for low income countries.4 Even in countries that have more active road safety programmes, too few evidence based measures are being implemented and too few are beingpromoted by too few organisations.5 Road crashes continue to be the leading cause of death and hospital admission for people under 50 years old in the European Union.6 So what can health professionals do to help?

What is advocacy?

WHO defines advocacy as “a combination of individual and social actions designed to gain political commitment, social acceptance, and system support for a particular goal or programme.”7 Surprisingly, little analysis of public health advocacy has beenpublished, and most “good practice” is transmitted orally.8 Nevertheless, concerted health sector advocacy has been a key element in delivering successful measures that have saved many lives. This contribution is needed just as much today.

Policy makers need objective evidence on effectiveness, public acceptability, and cost effectiveness to inform decision making. Advocacy seeks …

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