Road safety and Healthy Cities application discussed at the policy dialogue in Almaty

WHO

A policy dialogue on road safety was hosted by the WHO/Europe and the city of Almaty on 20 October 2016. The purpose of the dialogue was to discuss practical measures to reduce the injuries and deaths due to road crashes in Kazakhstan, and in Almaty in particular. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death in children over the age of 5 years in Kazakhstan, which also has the highest death rate per 100,000 population (24.2) of the 52 European countries that were mentioned in the WHO Global status report on road safety 2015.

An intersectoral approach is essential to reducing road crash fatalities; therefore the policy dialogue gathered representatives from different sectors, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  The meeting was opened by Dr Valihan Akhmetov, Head of health department of the city of Almaty, and Dr Melita Vujnovic, WHO Representative in Kazakhstan. It was emphasized that improving road safety would help to promote active life-styles and  encourage physical activity in population, helping to overcome the growing challenge of obesity and noncommunicable diseases. This was the key theme proposed by Almaty in its application to join the WHO Healthy Cities network.

Dr Dinesh Sethi, WHO Programme Manager for violence and injury prevention, underlined that focusing on risk behaviours such as wearing front and rear seat-belts, curbing drink driving and reducing and enforcing speed limits could reduce the risk of fatalities from road traffic craches up to 80%. Building better and safer road infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists is also important to reduce road traffic injuries.

A representative from the Office of the Prosecutor’s Road Safety Unit, presented the legislative situation and informed participants  about the status of development of the a new national road strategy for Kazakhstan. This strategy is to focus on the key risk factors including reducing speed, reducing drink driving and wearing safety belts. To get the situation under control there is a need for complex interventions including long term behaviour change communication strategies as well as enforcing existing laws.

Recommendations for action to be presented to Municipal authorities

  • To reduce urban speed limits to 50 km/h.
  • To lower speed limits around schools to 30 km/h.
  • To improve and  enforce laws to control:  
    • speeding,
    • odrink-driving and
    • safety equipment.
  • To improve the  roads to better  protect pedestrians and cyclists.

The event was widely covered by local and national press, and partners were keen to implement the recommendations to reduce road traffic injuries and deaths in Kazakhstan. The death toll of 9 people losing their lives prematurely in road crashes every day in Kazakhstan could be reduced dramatically by implementing these measures.

TEACH-VIP workshop

The policy dialogue was preceded by a two-day TEACH-VIP workshop to build national capacity in preventing injuries in children. 30 participants from the city of Almaty, Mangistau and Kyzylorda oblasts attended. The workshop consisted of training sessions with theory and practical group work focused on the burden of disease, risks and preventive measures for children at key stages of development.  TEACH-VIP 2 is a comprehensive  training package on preventing and controlling injuries, developed by WHO, which  will be included into the curriculum of the Kazakhstan School of Public Health in Almaty. Workshop participants found the package extensive, well-structured and easy to use in practice.