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Undercover Helmet Program

It is estimated that more than 70 percent of children ages 5-14 ride bicycles, but very few wear protective helmets even though helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent. Children's Hospital of Illinois Advocacy Committee began addressing children wearing bike helmets 5 years ago by approaching the Peoria Public School District #150 and providing properly fitting helmets and bicycle education to all of the enrolled first graders. A challenge in a community that does not have a bicycle helmet law or ordinance is to ensure widespread use of protective equipment among community members, especially children.

NACHRI/N.A.C.H. Spring Conference 2005 Poster Presentation

Charlotte Troyer, RN, Injury Prevention Coordinator Children's Hospital of Illinois at Saint Francis Medical Center, Peoria, IL

Learning Objectives:

1. Understand and explain the function and limitations of the program. 2. Identify key partners in the injury prevention field to include in program implementation. 3. Understand the benefit to the community or area served by the program and how the program interacts with other injury prevention efforts.

Initiative, project or approach: The Under Cover program began in 2000 as a community outreach project of the Children's Hospital of Illinois Advocacy Committee. The program initially offered a bicycle helmet to each first grader within the Peoria Public School District #150, approximately 1000 students. The program included measuring the head of each student and ordering a helmet to fit. A bicycle and helmet safety educational component was offered by an area bicycle shop owner on the day of helmet distribution. In 2003, the program was revised and became available to all elementary schools in the Children's Hospital of Illinois service area on an application basis. The school must complete an application form and have an active parent organization willing to take on the responsibility of raising or supplying funds to continue the helmet program for incoming kindergarten students for the following two years. The school must be willing to actively encourage bicycle helmet use for their students that ride their bikes to school. The program now provides properly fitting helmets to all students in the accepted school.

Trained volunteers from the Children's Hospital of Illinois Advocacy Committee measure the heads of all students and helmets are ordered according to size. The helmets are delivered to the school for a scheduled distribution date. On the date of distribution, trained volunteers again visit the school to ensure that each child has a properly fitting helmet. A 30 minute bicycle and helmet safety education assembly is conducted by an area bicycle shop owner that is also a safe bicycling enthusiast. This program is administrated by Children's Hospital of Illinois and is financially supported by Children's Miracle Network funds received into the hospital foundation.

Results or outcomes: Since the program implementation, more than 2,500 bicycle helmets have bee n distributed through the schools. Each year, more schools express interest in participating in this educational program that provides the bicycle helmets to every student.

Key lessons learned and applicability: In the future, an observational survey to assess bicycle helmet use prior to as well as after Under Cover program implementation will be conducted to document program success in promoting bicycle helmet use. It is crucial that the school identify the resources to provide bicycle helmets to incoming kindergarteners and new students to ensure the program continues after the first year. It is also necessary for the school to actively advocate for helmet use not just by recommending helmet use, but requiring helmet use to students that ride bicycles to school. Ongoing education must also occur throughout the school year to encourage and remind students to wear a bicycle helmet.

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