The UK’s Department of Health announced last week that 33 research units and groups will receive over £120 million of funding for Global Health Research after a successful open research competition led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Part of the wider Official Developmental Assistance (ODA) budget, the aim of this research is to improve the health of patients and public in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Among the successful NIHR Global Health Research Group projects is the Global Health Research Group on Road Safety, by Professor Neville Stanton, Chair, Human Factors Engineering Transportation Group at the University of Southampton. This is a collaborative research project between University of Southampton and the following LMICs: Kenya (via Strathmore University), Bangladesh (via Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology), Vietnam (via National University of Civil Engineering) and China (via Tsinghua University). It is funded to the tune of £1,986,387 for a period of 3 years.
Traditional road safety research has been characterized by the ‘3 E’s’ of Engineering, Enforcement and Education. Although they have provided guidance to engineers and policy makers, they do not go far enough at providing a holistic and integrated approach to road safety and fail to consider fully the wider system factors that shape road user performance and outcomes. The University of Southampton-led project intends to tackle road safety from a ‘7 E’s’ perspective, with the inclusion of Ergonomics, Economics, Emergency response, and Enablement. There are four overarching objectives for achieving this work:
1. Capture the current situation in each LMIC through local data collection of the road transport system
2. Develop solutions and countermeasures from a socio-technical systems-based perspective based on the local data
3. Evaluate these solutions in simulated environments (a significant output of the project is establishing simulator facilities at each LMIC institution)
4. Disseminate findings at local and national levels in order to shape the interventions, policy and regulations to reduce road crashes and associated public health trauma.
This will enable delivery of measurable benefits, primarily targeting a reduction in loss of life from road crashes by designing safer systems, but also aiming to reduce injury severity by improving the coordinated multi-agency effort of emergency responders. Road traffic injuries incur a heavy economic burden, estimated to be $2 trillion worldwide in 2010. Therefore, the project will employ well-established techniques to demonstrate the economic costs of road accidents and gains which can be made through safer systems. It will also address the indirect benefits of safer road systems including increasing physical health through more active transport choices and the associated improvements in congestion and pollution. Above all, it will aim to equip the target countries with the knowledge and resources to continue to make their roads safer after the project has finished. The overall goal of the project is to reduce the number and severity of road accidents in LMICs through the philosophy of “local solutions for local problems”.
Commenting of the project, Professor Gilbert Kokwaro, Director, Institute of Healthcare Management at Strathmore University said that “Road traffic crashes are a major cause of mortality and morbidity in Kenya, and this project offers a rare and timely opportunity for collaboration with a leading UK research group on road safety to address this problem”. He added that “Strathmore University will collaborate with all national stakeholders on road safety to ensure that this project contributes to the reduction of road accidents in Kenya”.