BACKGROUND: Helmets reduce bicycle-related head injuries, particularly in single vehicle crashes and those where the head strikes the ground. We aimed to identify non-legislative interventions for promoting helmet use among children, so future interventions can be designed on a firm evidence base.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness of non-legislative interventions in increasing helmet use among children; to identify possible reasons for differences in effectiveness of interventions; to evaluate effectiveness with respect to social group; to identify adverse consequences of interventions.
SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the following databases: Cochrane Injuries Group Specialised Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); MEDLINE; EMBASE; PsycINFO (Ovid); PsycEXTRA (Ovid); CINAHL (EBSCO); ISI Web of Science: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED); Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI); Conference Proceedings Citation Index-Science (CPCI-S); and PubMed from inception to April 2009; TRANSPORT to 2007; and manually searched other sources of data.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We included RCTs and CBAs. Studies included participants aged 0 to 18 years, described interventions promoting helmet use not requiring enactment of legislation and reported observed helmet wearing, self reported helmet ownership or self reported helmet wearing.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two independent review authors selected studies for inclusion and extracted data. We used random-effects models to estimate pooled odds ratios (ORs) (with 95% confidence interval (CI)). We explored heterogeneity with subgroup analyses.
MAIN RESULTS: We included 29 studies in the review, 21 of which were included in at least one meta-analysis. Non-legislative interventions increased observed helmet wearing (11 studies: OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.29 to 3.34). The effect was most marked amongst community-based interventions (four studies: OR 4.30, 95% 2.24 to 8.25) and those providing free helmets (two studies: OR 4.35, 95% CI 2.13 to 8.89). Significant effects were also found amongst school-based interventions (eight studies: OR 1.73, CI 95% 1.03 to 2.91), with a smaller effect found for interventions providing education only (three studies: OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.88). No significant effect was found for providing subsidised helmets (seven studies: OR 2.02, 95% CI 0.98 to 4.17). Interventions provided to younger children (aged under 12) may be more effective (five studies: OR 2.50, 95% CI 1.17 to 5.37) than those provided to children of all ages (five studies: OR 1.83, 95% CI 0.98 to 3.42).Interventions were only effective in increasing self reported helmet ownership where they provided free helmets (three studies: OR 11.63, 95% CI 2.14 to 63.16).Interventions were effective in increasing self reported helmet wearing (nine studies: OR 3.27, 95% CI 1.56 to 6.87), including those undertaken in schools (six studies: OR 4.21, 95% CI 1.06 to 16.74), providing free helmets (three studies: OR 7.27, 95% CI 1.28 to 41.44), providing education only (seven studies: OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.03 to 3.63) and in healthcare settings (two studies: OR 2.78, 95% CI 1.38 to 5.61).
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Non-legislative interventions appear to be effective in increasing observed helmet use, particularly community-based interventions and those providing free helmets. Those set in schools appear to be effective but possibly less so than community-based interventions. Interventions providing education only are less effective than those providing free helmets. There is insufficient evidence to recommend providing subsidised helmets at present. Interventions may be more effective if provided to younger rather than older children. There is evidence that interventions offered in healthcare settings can increase self reported helmet wearing.Further high-quality studies are needed to explore whether non-legislative interventions increase helmet wearing, and particularly the effect of providing subsided as opposed to free helmets, and of providing interventions in healthcare settings as opposed to in schools or communities. Alternative interventions (e.g. those including peer educators, those aimed at developing safety skills including skills in decision making and resisting peer pressure or those aimed at improving self esteem or self efficacy) need developing and testing, particularly for 11 to 18 year olds. The effect of interventions in countries with existing cycle helmet legislation and in low and middle-income countries also requires investigation.