Chicago, IL – As part of a national effort to reverse escalating injury trends through innovative community and grassroots safety efforts, the World Health Organization today officially designated the National Safety Council leader of its “Safe Communities” United States initiative at the council’s annual safety and health meeting here.
In its role, the council will provide support and guidance for American communities pursuing the WHO “Safe Community” designation.
Professor Leif Svanstrom, head of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Community Safety Promotion, conferred the leading role at the council meeting’s opening session.
Since 1989, communities around the globe have sought “Safe Community” designation by demonstrating their commitment to collaborative programs and initiatives that promote safety and prevent disabling injuries. A “safe community” is one that has a structured approach to safety, employs creative methods of education and environmental change, and works in tandem with appropriate local legislation and enforcement.
“It’s an honor and a privilege for the council to be a leader in the World Health Organization’s vital ‘Safe Communities’ movement,” said NSC President and CEO Alan C. McMillan. “The organization’s mission to create a safer place for people to live, work, and play is at the core of the council’s work as well. Building on our experience and commitment to safety, we look forward to helping communities across the U.S. achieve ‘Safe Community’ status.”
A new survey on American attitudes released at the council meeting found that nearly one in every three Americans believes nothing can been done to prevent accidental injuries, posing a major obstacle to national efforts to slow rising injury trends in the U.S.
“The survey clearly shows that we have our work cut out for us in educating Americans about injury prevention,” said McMillan. “The ‘Safe Communities’ approach is an important tool for taking on this challenge.”
Only 120 communities worldwide have achieved the prestigious “Safe Community” designation, including four in the U.S.: Anchorage, Alaska; Omaha, Nebraska; Springfield, Missouri; and Dallas, Texas. Communities, defined by geographic boundaries, common interests or service areas, apply to be a “Safe Community” through a rigorous quality assurance process coordinated by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
To change existing behaviors, each community may approach safety and injury in different ways. While building efforts around their unique challenges, populations, resources and social norms, the communities must identify and characterize their safety issue(s) and evaluate the effectiveness of their interventions.
The council will serve as the WHO Affiliate Safe Communities Support Center for the U.S. Around the world, only ten support centers have been established to increase the number, reach and impact of “Safe Communities.”
“The National Safety Council will be an ideal U.S. representative,” Professor Svanstrom said. “The council knows the importance of safety, the issues impacting communities across America, and what is involved in bringing a community together to make it a safer place.”
The National Safety Council (nsc.org) saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads through leadership, research, education and advocacy.