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Injury Prevention Messages Resume Under ThinkFirst

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Teenagers, children and other community members will once again hear messages of safe driving and injury prevention through ThinkFirst, a national injury prevention program. The local chapter of ThinkFirst has resumed work under the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. The program, funded by grants from the Illinois Department of Transportation, was suspended in February due to the lack of state funds. The Illinois Department of Transportation has awarded a new grant for FY 17 totaling $304,649.

The program is part of the community outreach programs in family medicine. “ThinkFirst’s messages of safe driving and injury prevention provides a valuable community service to teenagers, parents and the public,” said Janet Albers, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “It was important to have this program continue in our communities to remind people to stay safe while driving.”

Each year 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries and 12,000 to 20,000 new spinal cord injuries occur in the United States; one-third happens to people between the ages of 15 and 24. “The tragedy is most of these injuries are preventable,” said Nancy Kyrouac, director of the program.

ThinkFirst illustrates the dangers of distracted and impaired driving, and the importance of wearing safety belts. In FY 2015, ThinkFirst presented 180 programs to over 6,000 area teens, featuring a health professional speaking on injury, along with a speaker who has a brain or spinal cord telling their story. ThinkFirst also provides crash simulations for high schools. Bicycle safety and car seat safety are among the other functions of the program.

Recent events included a Family Fun Fair at Enos Elementary School and a car seat check at Green Hyundai. High school programs will start again in late October.

According to the national ThinkFirst program, “Injury is the leading cause of death and disability among children, teens and young adults. The most frequent causes of these injuries are motor vehicle crashes, violence, falls, sports and recreation.” Crash risks are higher for teens than in any other age group; the probability of a crash correlates with a number of points of risk for teens, including inexperience, lower rate of seat belt use, distractions, speed, time of day and impaired driving. In 2013, there were 71 fatalities to Illinois teen drivers, ages 16 to 19.

The SIU School of Medicine ThinkFirst program is a chapter of the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation and presents events as a public service at no cost to the school. To arrange a presentation, call ThinkFirst at 217-545-9112.

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