UWE professor working on UNICEF project in Bangladesh

Issue date: 01 October 2008

Children in the village of Gurkha Professor Elizabeth Towner, Professor of Child Health in the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health at University of the West of England, has been invited by UNICEF Bangladesh to be a consultant on an independent evaluation of a community-based programme of child injury prevention in Bangladesh and to work with a local research company, SURCH to support the study.

Childhood injury is one of the major causes of death in children in Bangladesh – each year 30,000 children die as a result of injuries. As in other low- and middle-income countries as childhood deaths from infectious diseases have declined, the problem of child injury deaths has been revealed.

The PRECISE - Prevention of Child Injuries through Social-Intervention and Education programme has been set up by Dr Fazlur Rahman and colleagues from the Centre for Injury Prevention Research in Bangladesh (CIPRB). It was initiated in 2005, component programmes developed and is currently being evaluated in an experimental community based trial, which will report in mid 2009. The PRECISE programme has been implemented in three rural areas and one urban area in Bangladesh and there are two control areas, one rural and one urban. There are three main components of the programme – Safe Home, Safe School and Safe Community.

Dr Shumona Shafinaz from UNICEF Bangladesh explains, “The integrated injury prevention programme is targeted at all unintentional injuries in children aged 0 to 17 years and has been funded by UNICEF Bangladesh and The Alliance for Safe Children.”

Children aged 1-5 years are cared for in crèches to keep them safe from injury risks for four hours per day. Children aged 4-10 years take part in a 'Swim for Life' survival swimming programme tailored to the local environment of ponds in Bangladesh. A 'Safe Home' programme encourages families to identify and reduce hazards in and near their homes and a 'Safe Schools' programme includes training for teachers in injury prevention and eight injury prevention text books have been prepared for eight grades of pupils.

First responders have been trained in first aid and there is also emphasis on disaster preparedness. There is also a range of awareness raising activities in the community (courtyard meetings with local residents, theatre productions and videos and community 'social autopsy' meetings after a child had died from an injury).

Elizabeth Towner began work on the five month consultancy project in August. She had made a preliminary visit to Bangladesh in early August and will make a second visit in November 2008 and between the two visits will work with Professor Mohammad Shuaib from SURCH in Dhaka and Dr Shumona Shafinaz from UNICEF Bangladesh, supporting the independent evaluation.

Elizabeth Towner commented, “The PRECISE programme is one of the largest trials of an injury prevention programme taking place in a low-income country. I am delighted to be invited by UNICEF Bangladesh to take part in the independent evaluation and to work with SURCH in Bangladesh. The findings of this independent evaluation will help UNICEF decide on future funding for the different components of the programme. I am looking forward to the challenges that this project presents”.

Editors notes:

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