Kulanthayan KC Mani | Safe Kids Worldwide | Malaysia

“The most meaningful aspect of my work with Safe Kids Malaysia UPM is the opportunity to save children’s lives and protect them from preventable injuries.”

Kulan Mani is a professor in the Department of Community Health at the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) where Safe Kids Malaysia is based. As a researcher, Kulan leads implementation-based studies related to child injury prevention, with road safety as one of five focus areas. Specific areas of research have included compliance behavior around seat belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets. In Kulan’s view, one of the greatest challenges to road safety in Malaysia is that people generally feel safe on the roads, and they do not expect to be involved in a crash. This false sense of security is based on the low probability of a crash event occurring over their driving years. And yet, when a crash does happen, the effects can be devastating for individuals and their families.

Kulan applied to be an Alliance Advocate in order to contribute more effectively to his country’s achievement of SDG target 3.6. In particular, he was interested in developing his skills in coalition building and communication. Since returning from Memphis, Kulan has applied these skills to SKW Malaysia’s standard child helmet campaign. The involvement of policymakers and other stakeholders in helmet distributions facilitates access to the schools and lends credibility to the work. Strategic use of social media (Facebook and the UPM website) has created a groundswell of interest in the campaign and media coverage has increased dramatically. Kulan’s new presence on social media has resulted in 16 TV interviews, 14 radio interviews, more than 50 articles in the press, and 1350 ‘Likes’ on Facebook. He notes that this has been a new experience for him—as an academic he has only used professional journals and conferences to share research findings and other information about his work. He now has a way to speak directly to the public to raise awareness and influence behavior change.

As a result of the helmet campaign, 1500 children have received standard helmets (funded by Halliburton), and 20 schools have participated in education sessions. The evaluation of behavior change results is still underway, but anecdotal evidence suggests a significant increase in standard helmet use by children with some possible spillover effect expected in helmet use by adults. In Malaysia, the price of standard helmets is relatively affordable, but the demand is low and consequently the supply has remained low; SKW Malaysia hope to generate demand through their interventions, which will increase supply and possibly decrease the price.

Next steps for Kulan and his colleagues include fundraising, which will be critical to maintaining the momentum generated by helmet distribution and the publicity it receives; analysis and dissemination of the helmet study results; and expanded engagement with the media, a critical link to the behavior change that will contribute significantly to halving road crash fatalities in Malaysia by 2020.