International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion   |  October 7, 2011

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The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of, and factors associated with, bicycle helmet usage in southern and central Malawi. This study was across-sectional observation of public behaviour. The urban and rural roadways in southern and central Malawi were studied during the dry season. In total, 1900 bicyclists were observed along the roadways of southern and central Malawi over a four-day period. Observer ascertainment of cyclists’ helmet status, approximate age, sex and bicycle operator or passenger status were measured. Of the 1900 cyclists observed, no cyclist was identified as wearing a helmet (exact 95% CI: 0.0–0.2%). There was no variation by age, sex or operator/passenger status. Nearly, 91.5% of observed cyclists were males and 87.7% were operating the bicycle. The sizeable majority of male cyclists were classified as young adults from adolescence to 25 years old (47.2%) or adults over age 25 (44.9%); 7.9% of male cyclists were pre-adolescent. Passengers were more likely to be female than operators (39.1% versus 4.2%), though, even for passengers, a higher proportion were males than females (p < 0.001). In Malawi, helmet usage is so rare as to be non-existent. This suggests an opportunity for significant improvement. Based on the observed cyclists’ characteristics, interventions should be targeted to adult and young adult males.

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