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Asia Injury Prevention Foundation – Asia injury work in Vietnam

International Award, 2006

Traffic crashes are one of the fastest growing causes of sudden death and disability in developing countries. Asia is where the problem is the worst, with it already being on the verge of becoming an "epidemic"; 44% of the world's road deaths occur in the region. As globalization in poor economies occurs, motorization usage increases due to increased affluence. Rapid motorization leads to more crashes that strain already overburdened health systems and propagates ongoing poverty.

In Vietnam, 16 million plus motorbikes on the road have made it one of the fastest motorizing nations in the world and one of the most dangerous and deadly. Yet, less than 3% of motorbike riders wear helmets. Motorbikes have become the family mode of transportation. It is not difficult to see parents with two or even three children on a motorbike - none of them wearing helmets. Greig Craft recognized the growing problem of traffic safety in Vietnam as well as other developing countries. In 2000 he decided to establish Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (Asia Injury) with its mission to provide effective solutions to reduce the number of traffic related fatalities and injuries in developing Asian countries and he chose helmets as a high visibility initiative to tackle road safety in Asia starting from Vietnam.

In 2000 helmets available to the Vietnamese were hot and heavy and uncomfortable to wear, most helmets also did not allow ventilation. With the professional assistance from Asia Injury, the Vietnamese new helmet standards, which are comparable to other international level, and endorsing features of the ‘tropical helmet’ regarding safety coverage areas, open hearing areas, allowance for peripheral vision, and ventilation slots for air flow, the Vietnam Motorbike Standards for Adults TCVN 5756 - 2001 was approved on May 11, 2001. However, as more than 10 million primary school students are taken to and from school on their parent’s motorbikes without proper safety equipment Mr Craft realized that the helmet needed to be as cheap as possible so that families could afford them.

With his personal money he managed to establish a 100 per cent foreign-owned helmet manufacturing factory, the world’s first non-profit plan created for humanitarian purposes. Mr. Greig Craft and Asia Injury received financial support from different corporates and charities and in May 2002, the non-profit Protec factory was opened which would produce high quality, affordable helmets. To guarantee the good quality of all Protec helmets, Mr Greig Craft also installed a helmet testing lab, where special equipment to test everything from the strength of helmets’ chin straps to the gear’s ability to withstand side-impact collisions were installed. Specifically designed for the unique climate and traffic conditions of Vietnam and Asia, Protec ‘tropical’ helmets are lightweight, well ventilated, and do not obstruct hearing or peripheral vision.

In 2000, Mr. Greig Craft and Asia Injury designed the Helmets for Kids Programme with children as the messagers to promote helmet wearing and to increase public awareness on traffic safety. Launched in November 2000 by former US President Bill Clinton, the programme ever since attracted a lot of interest from the Government, the public as well as from the corporate sectors. Through the Helmets for Kids programme, 165,000 students and teachers of 61 primary schools in 11 cities and provinces all over Vietnam have been equipped with safety helmets and traffic safety education. This has been achieved through the Public - Private Partnership. More than 44 corporates have supported these 165,000 children. According to Asia Injury’s data revealed from recent questionnaire surveys, by June 2006, 194 children have been saved thanks to wearing the projected helmets. With its success in Vietnam, the Helmets for Kids Program has been warmly welcomed by regional authorities and experts. The program was launched in Laos and Cambodia in 2005, in Thailand in March 2006 and will be expanded to Indonesia in September 2006, to Africa, Malaysia and other countries in 2007.

In 2005, Mr Greig Craft and Asia Injury started another initiative named "Traffic Environment Improvement" project which provided physical change and improvements to schools including new entry and exit gate, designated pick up and drop off points for parents, speed bumps in front of the school with zebra crossings and traffic signs, use of “safety volunteers” and provision to all children with high visibility “safety hands”(bright yellow hand-shaped batons) beside practical traffic safety training. The project has been successfully implemented in 4 schools and is being expanded into other poor provinces in central Vietnam.

Asia Injury's public awareness campaigns on "Protect Your Child", "Protect Your Family", "Protec Your Intelligence" and "Wear a Helmet - No Excuse" have been praised by the Government of Vietnam. At present, Asia Injury is preparing for the national launch of outdoor live concerts including victim interviews, helmet fashion shows, banners, posters and flyers in September 2006.