Child car seatHealthcare leaders and experts in road safety are working together to promote safer roads for children through the second Transportation Health Research in Children of Qatar Workshop.

Organised by Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Office of Corporate Child Health Planning in collaboration with HMC’s Trauma Center and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), based in Toronto, Canada, the workshop is part of ongoing collaborative research intended to inform policy and interventions that will protect the health of children in Qatar. The workshop brought together leading researchers and physicians, urban planners, government officials and other stakeholders in safe transportation.

According to Executive Clinical Lead for the Office of Corporate Child Health Planning, Dr Abdulla Al Kaabi, the high rate of road traffic deaths and injuries is a major issue in Qatar. He added that collaboration by all stakeholders in the country is needed to solve the problem. He said:

Beyond ensuring that sick and injured children are provided with the best possible care in Qatar, we are committed to preventing child injuries and deaths by bringing together key stakeholders in order to conduct researches aimed at further understanding the root causes of road traffic injuries and deaths. We hope this research will yield evidence-based solutions that promote safer roads for our children.’

Road traffic injuries (RTIs) are a leading cause of death and disability in Qatar, and incidences are particularly high among the young adult and child population. One in 11 trauma patients seen at Hamad General Hospital (HGH) is a child victim (aged 0-18) of RTIs, according to Dr Ayman El Menyar, Director of the Integrated Clinical Research Unit of HMC’s Trauma Center. Citing an analysis of RTI data for the years 2010-2012, Dr El Menyar said:

Eighty-six percent of the children who died during those years had injuries so severe that they died even before reaching the hospital, or at the scene of the crash. Forty percent of victims of all transport-related injuries, and 80% of victims who died from their injuries, were 15 to 18 years old. The data also shows that only 1.2% of the injured passengers and drivers were using seat belt or a car seat.’

Dr Al Kaabi added that not using a seat belt or child restraints increases the risk of injury even in a low-speed car crash. He said:

Unfortunately, many people don’t really understand the magnitude of this problem. Not only do they continue to drive without seat belts, but they also allow their children to sit on the front seat, or stand and move around inside the car, instead of putting them in the backseat where it is safer and restraining them with seat belts or car safety seats suitable for their age.’

He stressed that there is a significant need to educate families and young drivers on the risks of not using seat belts and child restraints. He also urged motorists to adhere to speed limits and refrain from using mobile phones while driving. Dr Al Kaabi said:

Our young people are the future of our country and should exercise responsible behavior and respect for others on the road. They should be aware of the consequences of reckless driving, not only to themselves but also to their families. It is the responsibility of adults to protect their children by changing their own behaviour.’

Dr Andrew Howard, Chief of Orthopedic Surgery and Senior Scientist at SickKids’s Research Institute, spoke about the Canadian experience in successfully implementing seatbelt compliance, highlighting that seatbelts and appropriate child restraints are scientifically proven methods of preventing road traffic injuries and deaths.

Fatemeh Darakhshan-Rassam, Program Officer in Biomedical and Health Sciences at Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), was present at the event and expressed her organisation’s support for research efforts aimed at promoting youth safety and health, in line with the vision of the country’s leadership.