Written by Participant and Organizer, Carol P. Cotton, Ph.D.
In the US, the theme of this year’s National Public Health Week (April 4-8) was Safety is No Accident: Live Injury-Free. This was an especially important topic for this year’s events as annually nearly 150,000 people die from injuries and almost 30 million people are seriously injured and visit an emergency room. Injuries can happen anywhere: at home, at work, in the community, at play, and while people are on the move. Injuries can happen to anyone: a child or an elderly person can fall, someone can be assaulted, a teenager can experience a car crash or a pedestrian can be hit by a car, or a family member can drown while on an outing. Injuries can happen suddenly and can be catastrophic in terms of both their long and short term consequences.
During this week, APHA encouraged everyone to help increase the awareness about the effect of injuries on the nation’s health, and to take steps to help Americans prevent injuries and violence. Many groups took up this call to action and organized activities and events across the nation.
At the University of Georgia, the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group, led by me, Dr. Carol Cotton the Director, and one of our Graduate Assistants, Sarah Shelnut, a Masters student in the College of Public Health, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, organized a week-long schedule of activities that involved over 300 students, 7 undergraduate field experience students at their sites in the community, a dozen graduate students from various departments in the College of Public Health, and 8 community partners. These activities covered topics as varied as drunk driving, sexual assault, texting while driving, and falls by the elderly.
The students in the general Health and Wellness classes participated by fanning out across campus on that Monday and Tuesday to distribute traffic safety information to the public at various University buildings. On Tuesday, an undergraduate intern worked with the campus police to implement a drunk driving demonstration utilizing the ‘drunk driving goggles’ and a pedal cart. Students learned a lot about what impairment actually means while driving the cart and wearing the goggles that distort their vision. Many students thought they did a good job carefully driving through the course until they saw that their own results revealed that they had hit many of the traffic cones that police officer, Sgt. Lance Tipton, had set out for them to navigate!
On Wednesday, a local assisted living facility, along with 6 undergraduate practicum students in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, presented a seminar devoted entirely to fall prevention. This information was presented to residents of the facility and their families. These students also designed fact sheets and brochures about injury prevention that were distributed all week. Also on Wednesday, the Future Health Promoters Club distributed information about texting and driving at a table in the main square of campus. These items included educational brochures, thumb rings, key chains and magnets.
Thursday was the graduate students turn to implement their program. They distributed packets about pedestrian safety to all of the parking deck attendants on campus. These packets contained fliers about using crosswalks that were put up at all the pedestrian exits of the parking decks. The students also used chalk to draw on the sidewalks around high-risk jaywalking areas on campus. The slogans encouraged students to use crosswalks and reminded them of the penalties for jaywalking. The students in the Injury Prevention class also joined in on this activity. Also on Thursday, the campus police held a second drunk driving demonstration at a different location on campus from the earlier event.
On Friday, the Women’s Health class distributed information about sexual assault around campus and the Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute partnered with St. Mary’s Hospital to hold a car seat demonstration. The car seat demonstration was attended by many new moms who are part of the Toddle Time support group.
Throughout the week, students worked with community partners to spread the word about all different types of injury prevention issues. Many strategies were implemented to engage the community, on and off campus, to improve health and reduce risk. This was a huge effort and the work of both undergraduate and graduate students, with student leadership made this National Public Health Week a success at the University of Georgia!
Carol P. Cotton, Ph.D.
Director, Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group
Instructor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior
College of Public Health, University of Georgia