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Bike helmets could save $41 per child in hospital costs

As a way to bring awareness to an inexpensive way to prevent injuries and death to children, the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) is sponsoring Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week from May 7-11, 2012. The safety awareness week is part of the statewide public awareness campaign, Put a lid on it! Bike Helmet Safety Awareness, encouraging adults and children to wear helmets while riding bikes.

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According to Sarah Denny, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, a $10 bike helmet saves a healthcare system $41 per child.

“From 2002 to 2009 in Ohio, we looked at the total treatment charges for children ages 0-18 involving head injuries and bicycles. Emergency room visit charges alone were $14 million,” said Denny. “It was over $17 million for total hospitalization costs.”

In 2010, the number of people injured by not wearing a bike helmet was 51,000, and apart from the automobile, bicycles are tied to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product, including trampolines, ladders and swimming pools, said Denny.

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"If 85 percent of the children injured in the U.S. per year wore helmets, we could save up to $256 million in just one year," said Melissa Wervey Arnold, executive director for the Ohio AAP, in a written statement. "And, when you consider that one million of Ohio's three million children are reliant on Medicaid, this savings translates into keeping more money in taxpayer's pockets."

The Bike Helmet Safety Awareness Week will include activities for children of all ages, including bike rodeos, bike helmet safety lessons and giveaways, bike-to-school days and public awareness activities. As part of the public awareness campaign, the Ohio AAP will be partnering with pediatricians, children's hospitals, law enforcement and schools to help host the many events planned.

The statistics regarding bicycle helmets are staggering, but proven interventions exist. Various studies show that bike helmet legislation is effective in increasing bicycle helmet use and reducing bicycle-related death and injury among children covered under the law. One study showed that within the five years of passage of a state mandatory bicycle helmet law for children ages 13 and under, bicycle-related fatalities decreased by 60 percent.

“The cost savings for wearing helmets is huge. If you think about it, there’s not only medical costs savings, but savings for parents who won’t have to miss work due to hospitalizations and children’s quality of life savings,” said Denny. “We really want to grow this campaign with our partners across the state.”

A combination of efforts is necessary to effectively increase helmet usage rates among Ohio children, including raising awareness of the benefits, encouraging modeling behavior among adults, distributing bike helmets to Ohio children and advocating for supportive public policies, said Denny.

Follow HFN Associate Editor Kelsey Brimmer on Twitter @kbrimmerhfn.

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