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Young drivers next focus of APHA traffic institute: professionals encouraged to apply for NHTSA grant program.

On the heels of a successful traffic safety institute held during APHA's 134th Annual Meeting, the Association is now embarking on another year of using public health techniques to make America's roads safer.

Planning is under way for the second year of the Public Health Traffic Safety Institute, which will focus on traffic safety among young drivers between the ages of 15 to 20, according to Mighty Fine, MPH, APHA's public health analyst. Of the 8,738 people who died in car crashes involving young drivers in 2004, 41 percent were the young drivers themselves and 27 percent were their passengers, reported the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To help curb such deaths, the institute--a joint venture between APHA and NHTSA and funded by NHTSA as well--will award grants to traffic safety and health professionals around the nation to help them create safety programs for young drivers in their communities. For example, program proposals could involve the implementation of graduated licensure, which mandates minimum driver training and driving curfews for beginning drivers.

"Reaching drivers at a young age with safety education is an ideal form of prevention and a perfect component of the Public Health Traffic Safety Institute," Fine said. "With the proper interventions, an untold number of lives could be saved."

Institute organizers are hoping this year's topic of young drivers will be as successful and popular as last year's. More than 50 people attended the Public Health Traffic Safety Institute in Boston in November, which focused on promoting alcohol screening and brief intervention in emergency rooms and other health care settings. The technique involves integrating such interventions and screenings into regular health care visits by identifying people with alcohol problems and helping them to change their behaviors before they make the decision to drive while impaired. The concept was fairly new to most participants at the institute, however it's a technique well suited to public health professionals who know how to bridge the gap between the traffic safety, health care and public health worlds, according to Ann Mahony, MPH, chair-elect for APHA's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Section.

"The concept (of early intervention) is gaining momentum," said Mahony, who served as an expert advisor while the institute was being developed. "The most important thing is that it has to be out there all the time because there's always a new cohort of people ... who needs to be introduced to the technique."

According to NHTSA, more attention to impaired driving is needed. The agency reported that progress on reducing alcohol-related traffic deaths has been leveling out, with 17,000 such deaths occurring each year. During the Boston institute, presenters discussed screening and clinical issues involved in early intervention, "big picture" operational issues such as referral services and created role-playing situations in which participants pretended to be physicians and patients, said Mahony, senior program management officer at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"Frequently work is on the crisis end of impaired driving, like pulling over drunk drivers, getting them into the criminal justice system and occasionally looking into treatments," said Anara Guard, MS, a past chair of APHA's Injury Control and Emergency Services Section and associate director at the Education Development Center in Boston. "But we were interested in prevention."

In addition to one-on-one interventions, the Boston traffic institute also highlighted ways to translate a one-on-one intervention into a community-based intervention, such as using the Internet to reach large populations, said Guard, who also served as an advisor to the institute.

"We know that crashes are a leading cause of death for many age groups and, unfortunately, traffic deaths have not been decreasing," Guard said. "So it remains a very challenging problem for the nation ... and a problem that's not going to go away by itself."

The application and grant process for the upcoming APHA/NHTSA institute on young drivers is expected to begin in May. A second Public Health Traffic Safety Institute, to be held at the 135th APHA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in November, will serve as an orientation for grantees.

For more information on the Public Health Traffic Safety Institute or on the grant process, e-mail Fine at <mighty.fine@apha. org> or call (202) 777-2493.
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Title Annotation:VITAL SIGNS: Perspectives of the president of APHA; American Public Health Association; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Author:Krisberg, Kim
Publication:The Nation's Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:713
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