Canadian Cyclist


August 16/07 3:23 am - Ontario Provides Free Helmets to Low Income Families

Posted by Editor on 08/16/07

Ontario Provides Free Helmets to Low Income Families

The McGuinty Government is launching its Injury Prevention Strategy to reduce the frequency, severity and impact of preventable injuries, Health Promotion Minister Jim Watson announced August 8th in Ottawa.

To complement the launch of the strategy, Watson announced that the government is providing funding to ThinkFirst Canada, an organization dedicated to preventing brain and spinal cord injury through education, to enhance helmet safety awareness by providing free helmets to children and youth in Ontario from low-income families. This is one of the key initiatives being funded through Ontario's Injury Prevention Strategy in 2007-2008.

"People in Ottawa are very active and, with injuries being one of the most pervasive yet preventable health challenges facing this province, everyone is at risk," said Watson. "The Ontario Safe Sport Helmet Initiative is designed to encourage the use of helmets among youth as a way for them to play safe while enjoying their sport and recreational activities."

An estimated 13,000 Ontarians visit hospital emergency departments each year with a cycling injury, and brain injuries account for nearly 67 per cent of those who are killed in bicycle accidents. Children under the age of 15 have the highest injury and death rates associated with cycling activities.

Minister Watson announced the strategy at a sport helmet safety event at the Ottawa West Region & Carlingwood Y Centre. Watson also unveiled public education posters that will be distributed throughout the province with the tagline: "Buckle Your Bucket."

Minister Watson also commended Kitchener-Centre MPP John Milloy for his efforts to bring the issue of helmet safety forward. Milloy's Private Members' Resolution on helmet safety received unanimous all-party support in the legislature.

"The safety benefits of wearing an approved helmet while participating in high-impact sports and recreational activities far outweigh the consequences of not wearing a helmet if an injury occurs," said MPP Milloy. "I am pleased to see the Ontario government in partnership with ThinkFirst Canada launch an initiative that will both prevent injury and save lives."

"I am thrilled that the Ontario government is taking a leadership role in launching a strategy that will help to coordinate injury prevention efforts across the province," said Jim Russell, Executive Director, ThinkFirst. "I am delighted that we had a role in the development of this important strategy. And I am pleased to be working in partnership with the Ministry of Health Promotion on the Safe Sport Helmet Initiative, as a first step in this strategy which is working to reduce injuries."

ThinkFirst will roll the program out in three phases, supported by helmet safety education and awareness materials to work towards Ontario's youth playing safe while getting active. Phase One will provide 1,000 helmets to youth at bicycle helmet fitting clinics in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, Toronto and North Bay; Phase Two will provide sport helmets to some community recreation programs for participant use in ongoing programs; and Phase Three will be a sport helmet voucher program that will provide youth who may not have the means to purchase a helmet, with a voucher to obtain a helmet that will suit their sport or activity.

In 2007-2008, the Ontario government will be investing approximately $2 million in the strategy comprising the Ontario Safe Sport Helmet Initiative and the following:

• The "Ontario Children's Rural Safety Program," in partnership with Safe Kids Canada, will raise awareness and understanding of farm-related injuries in children and how to prevent them;
• The "Community-Based Injury Prevention Mobilization" initiative, in partnership with Safe Communities Canada, will expand the implementation of their model into identified communities which are at the greatest risk of injury;
• Support will be given to the Ontario Public Health Association's injury prevention projects which include the Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre services provided by SMARTRISK; and, support for public health managers overseeing the Injury Prevention Including Substance Abuse Prevention mandatory program, with the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.


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