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On recent visits to Moscow and Tbilisi, and driving from Baku to the Sheki and Agdash regions in Azerbaijan, I observed challenges and progress in making roads safer. Why should this matter to public health folks? Or should this be only the concern of engineers?
If one of the goals of development is to improve health outcomes by reducing premature mortality, injuries and disability, then unsafe roads are a key public health challenge.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) the problem is acute. Road traffic deaths rank among the ten leading causes of death: people are 2-3 times more likely to die from road injuries than people in Western Europe. For every death, many more people have injuries that require medical care.
What is causing this problem? For sure, more people are driving because the number of cars has increased significantly due to rising incomes—the traffic jams in some ECA cities vividly reflect this change. Poor road conditions and spotty enforcement of speeding, drunk driving, and seatbelt and helmet laws are leading culprits. “Distracted driving,” due to the growing use of cell phones and texting, is also resulting in more car crashes.
Some countries of the former Soviet Union, the so-called CIS countries, are facing difficult challenges to achieve the HIV/tuberculosis-related Millennium Development Goal (MDG 6) by 2015. The continuing growth of new HIV cases, insufficient access to prevention services and treatment for people living with HIV, combined with the severity of region’s tuberculosis (TB) epidemic (particularly multi-drug resistant TB) are major challenges.
On October 10-12, 2011, the Russian government, along with UNAIDS, the Global Fund, and the World Bank, is hosting in Moscow a high-level forum to discuss these challenges and ways to reach MDG 6 in the CIS. (Click here for a video, a presentation, and more from the forum.)
Unless concerted action is taken, sustained political commitment mobilized, new public/private and civil society partnerships established, and a sharp improvement in the effectiveness of HIV and TB programs realized, MDG 6 risks not being achieved. So, what to do?