Bicycle-related head injuries are an important cause of death and disability, despite the availability of helmets. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based bicycle helmet promotion program in increasing helmet use by children while controlling for secular trends. Two high-income and two low-income schools in an urban Canadian community were selected to receive a bicycle helmet promotion intervention, with the remaining 18 schools serving as controls. Approximately 1800 observations of bicycling children were made at randomly selected observational sites 2 to 5 months after the intervention to assess changes in behavior. Helmet use at all observation sites tripled from 3.4% (1990, preintervention) to 16% (1991, postintervention). In the high-income intervention area, observed helmet use rose dramatically from 4% to 36% in contrast to the more modest increase in the high-income control area from 4% to 15%. In the low-income intervention area, there was a modest increase from 1% to 7%, but it did not differ from the increase in the low-income control area from 3% to 13%. The program was highly successful in children of high-income families but not in children of low-income families. Developing strategies for low-income families remains a priority.

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