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Public Health and Vision Zero: What role do we have to play?

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This post is part of a blog series leading up to Canada’s Vision Zero Summit on November 29, 2016. Learn more about Sweden’s Vision Zero approach and Parachute’s Canadian approach.

Today I’m live tweeting and blogging from Parachute’s Vision Zero Summit. It’s not quite 11 am but already I’m on fire for Vision Zero and everything that it stands for. In particular, I’m really reflecting on the role that public health can play within an initiative such as Vision Zero. Today’s conference opened with a video address by Dr Matts-Ake Belin from Sweden, where Vision Zero originates. Dr Belin proposed that public health and Vision Zero take opposite approaches: that public health starts with a problem that needs to be solved and applies intervention to address the problem, whereas Vision Zero starts with the vision of what needs to be achieved. Dr David Sleet, formerly from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and now a consultant, spoke about the role for public health in Vision Zero. Dr Sleet believes that traffic injuries and deaths are the number one public health issue of our time. Advances in road safety is listed as #10 on the CDC’s list of 10 Great Public Health Achievements in the 20th Century.

Dr Sleet asked the audience who among us work in public health. While about 10 percent of the audience raised their hands, Dr Sleet told us that today, we all work in public health because what we are doing here at the Vision Zero Summit is public health’s mandate the save lives and prevent deaths. Dr Sleet proposes that public health approach road safety in the same way as we do infectious diseases- like infection disease on wheels- by bringing the epidemiological and education lenses that we apply to outbreaks such as e-coli and Zika. In fact public health has a history of initiatives that focus on reducing to zero, such as polio.
 
VZ 1

While fellow panelist Ian Grossman from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators stated that one of the challenges in the US has been to form connections between those who work in road safety and public health, here in Ontario public health professionals are used to working intersectorally and making a difference in their communities.  While there is a role for public health, Dr Sleet stated that Vision Zero should be everyone’s vision and should involve every sector.

HC Link’s blog series on Vision Zero
 
Looking to learn more about Vision Zero?

Sweden’s Vision Zero Website http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/
Parachute’s Vision Zero Website http://www.parachutecanada.org/visionzero
Vision Zero’s approach to infrastructure: Making m...
Working Towards Zero -- Together

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