Training and Education

Adolescent Bicycle Helmet Public Education Campaign

Lead Instructor: Luann D'Ambrosio, MEd

This public education campaign focused on bicycle helmet use for teens aged 12-14 years. Through surveys and focus groups, it was found that the campaign would be most effective if geared towards changing attitudes, rather than conveying knowledge about wearing helmets. Teens interviewed expressed that they knew about the importance of wearing helmets for safety. It has been shown that attitudes can be changed by promoting new social norms through decision-making skills and self-esteem building. Similar studies on smoking cessation and sex awareness issues have been successful by focusing on positive attitudes rather than on the dangers of certain behaviors.

The goals and objectives of the campaign were to convey effective, teen-targeted messages using appropriate imagery for this age group. The HIPRC requested proposals from writers and illustrators to design a "Zine" publication for middle school students. The "Zine" short for "Magazine" can be described as a comic book "type" publication that strive to change attitudes and behaviors about bicycle helmets. The Boeing Employee Fund printed 10,000 zines for distribution through middle schools physical education classes. In addition to the production of the Zine, three coupon programs allowed for the purchase of helmets at a low or reduced price continued. The campaign collaborated with hospitals to provide low-income families with helmets for $5.00. Fred Meyer partnered with the campaign to promote helmet use by providing bike helmets for $5 off the price, keeping the purchase affordable for many people. The campaign also continued their partnership with Giro and the bike shops to offer bike helmets at reduced prices.

A partner in this campaign effort, Seattle King County Public Health, has taken on this public education initiative. Helmet ordinances have been successful in improving helmet usage in many jurisdictions. Seattle became the latest Washington municipality to require bicycle helmets when its Board of Health passed a regulation in August 2003. Convincing data included a 50% higher hospitalization rate for traumatic brain injury in Seattle compared to the rest of King County where helmet ordinances were already in existence. SKCPH is currently conducting helmet use observations in the community and will roll out a public education campaign using many of the HIPRC materials in the winter, spring and summer of 2004 with follow-up evaluations planned for November 2004. The HIPRC has provided technical assistance with this project as well as the protocol for helmet use observations.