Background/purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of a community-based bike helmet promotion campaign on bike helmet use and related head injuries in children (0 to 14 years of age) in a large North American city.
Methods: The authors established a multifaceted, multidisciplined, community-based campaign to promote bike helmet use by children in 1989. The goals were to increase helmet use by 100% per year, to reduce fatal bike-related head injuries by 50% overall, and to explore the feasibility of legislation mandating helmet use. Helmet use was measured by standardized field observations repeated annually in a single borough within the metropolitan area. To estimate head injury incidence, the number of admissions to hospital for the treatment of bike-related head injuries in a regional trauma registry, which included all residents in the target population was used. The authors were unable to control for changes in exposure to bicycling or in the criteria for admissions to hospital for the treatment of head injuries during the study period.
Results: The bike helmet use rate rose from 4% in 1990 to 67% in 1996. The number of head injury admissions fell from 46 in 1990 to 24 in 1996. Legislation requiring helmet use by all children went into effect in October 1995.
Conclusions: Bike helmet use increased significantly during the first 4 years of the campaign and again after the helmet law was implemented. The total number of bike-related head injury admissions declined by more than 50%. The campaign achieved all of its goals except for a 50% reduction in fatal head injuries, which were too infrequent for analysis.