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J Natl Med Assoc. Feb 2002; 94(2): 108–118.
PMCID: PMC2594128
The role of the African-American physician in reducing traffic-related injury and death among African Americans: consensus report of the National Medical Association.
Fernando Daniels, Wayne Moore, Christopher Conti, Lucille C. Norville Perez, Beverly M. Gaines, Rodney G. Hood, Ian J. J. Swain, Rudolph Williams, and Chaka T. Burgess
Abstract
ISSUE: Traffic-related injuries and fatalities disproportionately affect the African American community. These high rates of traffic-related death and injury among African Americans manifest in multiple areas of traffic safety, including: Failure to use seat belts and child restraints. High incidence of alcohol-impaired driving. Failure to follow child passenger and seat belt safety laws and recommendations. High rates of pedestrian accidents, ofen brought on by impairments of drivers and/or pedestrians. Research indicates that national public information campaigns, with general messages only slightly modified for African American audiences, have not been culturally appropriate or effective in changing traffic safety behavior. In addition, traditional distribution mechanisms for these messages have not effectively reached the target population. Evidence suggests that in the African American community, there is a pervasive lack of knowledge of the devastating impact of traffic-related accidents on the overall health status of the community. This lack of information has resulted in a tragic cycle, in which parents fail to model safe operation of motor vehicles, and generation after generation copy this behavior, increasing the community's vulnerability to serious injuries and untimely deaths. This trend toward improper traffic safety habits among African Americans persists despite federal, state and local laws to enforce and promote sound traffic safety practices. OBJECTIVE: To study the existence of disparities in traffic-related injury and death among African Americans and to determine what kinds of traffic safety messages and campaigns will be effective in encouraging African Americans to respond to safety laws in sufficient numbers to reduce the disproportionately high rate of injury and death. Traffic safety issues were examined to effectively recommend policy, address barriers, best practices, and intervention strategies for the National Medical Association, its physician members, their patients, and their communities. CONSENSUS PROCESS: A literature review, driven by research instruments from numerous organizations included reports and materials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), American Academy of Pediatrics, National Committee for Injury Prevention and Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Both the Meharry Medical College report, Achieving a Credible Health and Safety Approach to Increasing Seat Belt Use Among African-Americans, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Blue Ribbon Panel to Increase Seat Belt Use Among African Americans: A Report to the Nation, provided substantial background for the panel. More than 60 pieces of traffic safety literature have been examined to date. Based on the literature review, a short list of the most relevant issues affecting African Americans and traffic safety was devised. It includes: The disproportionately high rate of traffic-related injury and death among African Americans. The cost in health, monetary costs and other associated costs of traffic safety accidents and injuries. The number of traffic-related injuries and deaths that could be prevented if more African Americans observed good traffic safety practices. Barriers to practicing good traffic safety habits among African Americans. Failure of laws and public information campaigns to influence improved traffic safety practices among African Americans sufficient to reduce disparities in traffic-related injury and death. In July 2001, NMA convened a consensus panel of experts in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to review a briefing document summarizing the most salient traffic safety issues among African Americans. The panel elaborated on key issues, including existing policy and standards for the use of child restraint devices to secure infants and toddlers, existing data regarding disparities in traffic-related injury and death among African Americans, and the cultural, age and developmental appropriateness of existing safety campaigns. SUMMARY: Public information campaigns have successfully improved traffic safety practices among the general public but in large part have been unsuccessful among minority populations-including African Americans. This may be due to: A failure to use techniques and messages that are culturally sensitive to African Americans. Campaigns that have targeted geographic and social centers where African Americans are not broadly present. Lack of awareness of the disproportionate effect motor vehicle crashes are having on African Americans. Scientifically based, culturally appropriate intervention strategies need to be devised and implemented by African American institutions and organizations to improve traffic safety practices and reduce the high rate of traffic-related injury and deaths among African Americans.
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