More than 110 participants from 11 universities across the UAE came together to develop public health interventions to tackle the problem of road traffic incidents among youth in the UAE at the third annual Public Health Think Tank (PHTT) at NYU Abu Dhabi on Saturday, November 5. Road traffic incidents are the number one cause of death in young people between the ages of 15 and 29 worldwide, and a matter of national priority according to the UAE's Vision 2021.
Participants heard from public health practitioners and research professionals on the historic, national, and international context of the issue. Keynote speakers included Dr. Michal Grivna, professor at the Institute of Public Health of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at UAE, and Dr. Jonathon Ehsani, healthy policy and management professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Participants were introduced to the Public Health Problem Solving Paradigm, a tool widely used in the public health sector, and coached on giving effective presentations to the panel of judges, which included research and public health professionals, and a member of the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD).
Teams were then divided and challenged with the task of designing effective public health intervention campaigns to reduce the prevalence of road traffic incidents among youth. A panel comprising of UAE government officials and leading academics then judged their final proposals.
Team Fujairah won first place at PHTT 2016 for their proposal: Mandating Uses of Driving Simulators With Varied Driving Conditions. Recognizing that both inexperience and age significantly affect the risk of traffic incidents and that inexperience at any age acted as a major risk (Twisk and Stacy, 2007), the winning proposal recommended the introduction of a driving simulation component as a prerequisite to driver training.
The driving simulation component would have a prescribed list of road conditions, which each driver would have to endure before taking the road test. This would serve to provide experience and familiarity with being on the road as well as exposure to unexpected scenarios, which would help drivers be better prepared.
Members of the winning team, including students Wei-chih Hsu and Chandan Mishra from NYUAD, are eligible to receive a grant of AED 3,000 along with professional support from public health professionals to guide them toward the successful implementation of their proposal.
"PHTT was fun as well as a challenge. It enabled students from different academic disciplines and diverse backgrounds, to mutually realize that road accidents are a major public health concern in the UAE and seek effective solutions from an engineering, technology, and socioeconomic point of view. Our project essentially aims to broaden the experience of learners through the use of simulators offering a variety of road conditions commonly prevalent in the UAE," said Chandan Kumar Mishra, NYUAD Class of 2019.
Team Ras Al Khaimah won second place for their proposal called iDriveSafe, an app monitoring system that pushes positive and negative feedback via SMS notifications to drivers and parents using accelerometers as proxies for responsible and reckless driving. Third place was awarded to Team Sharjah for their public awareness campaign called Slow Down, Rise Up, which discourages speeding and emphasizes personal and national identity information.
A student-led, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and locally engaged initiative, PHTT is designed to catalyze public health innovation in the UAE. Public Health Think Tank co-chair and NYUAD Class of 2018 student Sjur Hamre said: "Like the judges from the UAE government and academia, I was thoroughly impressed by the interventions that our participants developed over the weekend; they were scientifically substantiated, tailored to the UAE's specific needs, and frequently leveraged modern technology in novel ways. The conference demonstrated yet again that UAE youth can contribute actionable and realistic policy proposals, and I look forward to working with the winning team on developing their idea."
PHTT 2016, the third annual, was co-directed by NYU Abu Dhabi students Alvaro Yanez, Dhanya Baby, Hala Aqel, JooHee Choi, and Sjur Hamre and supported by Fatima College of Health Sciences students Alaa Soliman and Maha Abdullah.
For more information about PHTT, the event and this year's proposals, please visit 2016.phtt.org.