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The Importance of Policy Advocacy — GHAI at the World Conference on Injury Prevention

By Mena El-Turky

In the months before the pandemic, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI) road safety team began preparing for the 14th World Conference on Injury Prevention & Safety Promotion, which was originally intended to be held in Australia in November 2020.

Due to Covid-19, a Virtual Showcase was instead established in 2021. The event aimed to engage with various stakeholders to share information, exchange examples of good practices and progress and create a space for collaboration among the global injury prevention community.

The road safety team at GHAI held a panel discussion on the importance of policy advocacy in reducing injury and death from road crashes. Using examples from the Philippines, China and India, the event focused on the policy advocacy efforts around the five behavioral risk factors — speed, helmets, child restraints, drink driving and seat belts — and how civil society organizations worked together to strengthen legislation in each country.

The main road safety policy gaps in China, according to the World Health Organization, include mandatory use of child restraints and mandatory helmet use for e-bike riders. Stronger policies that mandate and enforce the use of child restraints would reduce the number of child deaths. With the now-widespread use of e-bikes — there were up to 300 million e-bikes in China in 2020 with an additional 100 million expected by 2050 — the risk of injury and death is high, and crashes occur frequently. During the event, advocates discussed child restraint systems (CRS), e-bikes and the importance of working at the sub-national level and through legislation that may not be solely focused on transport, such as the Minor Protection Law (MPL). The MPL is a law designed to protect the physical and mental health of minors and to safeguard their lawful rights and interests. In 2020, advocates were successful in securing the passing of the amendment with a provision that encouraged the use of child restraint systems (car seats) to protect minors from injuries from road traffic crashes.

In the Philippines, the conversation focused on the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act, which has been signed into law. Road crashes remain the leading cause of death for the youth from ages 5-29 worldwide. In 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority determined that 1,226 children below 14 years old died on Philippine roads, or at least three children every day. The new law will ensure that children whose bodies are too small to fit into regular seatbelts will be protected in the event of a road crash.

In India, GHAI highlighted the importance of enforcement and the passage of the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act of 2019 (MVAA), which increased penalties on several of the behavioral risk factors. Implementing strong road safety legislation like the MVAA has worked in other countries to reduce the road crash death burden. India has the highest number of road crash deaths of any country worldwide, and advocates are working toward the immediate implementation of the legislation to save lives in India.

All three case studies highlighted the importance of cooperation and collaboration with all stakeholders in moving toward policy change. The showcase elevated the conversation about — and importance of — policy advocacy as an intervention to preventing injury and death. In 2022, we hope to continue sharing our work while learning about new research and other programs that contribute to creating a safer and healthier world.