AIPN Safety 2018 scholarship winner, Gretchen Waddell (Kidsafe WA) gives us a wrap up of her attendance at the conference in Bangkok this November.
Thanks to the Australasian Injury Prevention Network, I was fortunate enough to attend Safety 2018, the 13th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion. The conference took place in Bangkok, Thailand from 5th to 7th November 2018 and had the major theme of advancing injury and violence prevention to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Firstly for a bit of context for readers, I am a Project Officer at Kidsafe WA, a not-for-profit organisation focused on preventing childhood injuries and accidents in Western Australia. As such, my strong interest in child safety led me to sessions following this theme, however the variety of topics on offer at the conference made it easy to get a taste of everything throughout the three days.
With nearly 1000 participants from over 90 countries and hundreds of oral and poster presentations, Safety 2018 was an insightful, thought-provoking and stimulating three days. Injury issues covered included drowning prevention, road safety, falls prevention and violence prevention, among many others. The conference brought a wide range of injury prevention and safety promotion researchers, practitioners, policy makers and advocates together from all corners of the world. While all delegates shared the common goal of working towards reducing injury, each country varies considerably from the next and with this diversity brings a valuable range of experiences and knowledge to share with each other.
One of the major themes I found a large majority of sessions coming back to was the need for multi-sectoral action, an important component of injury prevention actions that is relevant for all injury contexts. It was highlighted that without broadening our scope to include all sectors including those that we may not traditionally include in injury prevention, along with finding the best methods for this collaboration, we cannot do better. In addition it is important to ensure that we do not re-invent the wheel and instead collaborate together to ensure that all injury prevention activities are effective.
An idea that was echoed in multiple sessions was the question of the way in which we approach safety. Nhan Tran from WHO spoke on the way we see safety – we need to treat it as a value rather than an intervention. Additionally, there is strong importance of addressing underlying issues rather than focusing on the risk factors of injuries only.
It was also highlighted that a lack of innovation is not a problem in injury prevention. Child car restraints, smoke alarms, child resistant containers and bicycle helmets (to name only a few) were all developed forty to fifty years ago. The problem is not innovation, it is getting these innovations to people, particularly to those that need them most. On this note of providing access, it was also noted in multiple sessions that the implementation stage is what we often fail at. Even with great concepts, we cannot tackle injury prevention without a successful implementation stage. Margie Peden from the George Institute echoed this in her remarks on the final day of the conference, underlining that we need to explore the barriers and facilitators for implementation for success.
Some other important points noted in discussions throughout the three days was the importance of data collection – and the use of this data between researchers and practitioners; legislation and enforcement of the legislation; and inclusion of at-risk groups such as youth in all stages of injury prevention programs including planning, implementation and evaluation.
Another important outcome of Safety 2018 focused on harmful alcohol use. Harmful alcohol use was recognised as a contributor to all types of injury, violence and NCDs, causing significant morbidity and economic loss, which was heard in all sessions. As a result there was an important addition to the Bangkok Declaration – a push for stronger alcohol policies and cross-cutting alcohol harm reduction strategies, and for WHO to exclude support for alcoholic beverages at their health conferences or meetings.
I would like to extend my thanks to AIPN again for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference. It was an unforgettable experience which has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and chance to network with other injury prevention professionals from all parts of the world. I look forward to continuing in the world of injury prevention with the extra insight and inspiration from my learnings at the conference!