Traditional safety messages are didactic, condescending and dull. They try to scare
kids into being safe by using negative language and frightening images. When threatened
with consequences, kids dont respond.
HEROES, a program developed by Dr. Robert Conn of SMARTRISK, is distinctly
different from the usual "do not" safety dictums. It aims to give the power of
choice and the power of personal responsibility back to youth.
April Bond, a high school graduate and two-time student presenter, attributes the
success of HEROES to the emphasis on choice. "Theyre not saying
dont take risks. Its not just another lecture. The message is, do it for
yourself." HEROES had a powerful impact on April, who recognized the fact
that teens think theyre invincible and that is dangerous. "The program shows
everyone that theyre not invincible, that things can happen, but they have a choice.
HEROES makes them more aware of those choices."
A multi-image sound show, HEROES contrasts fast-paced images of crash scenes
and quadriplegics with healthy, carefree teens enjoying their lives. It also features a
live presentation given by a young injury survivor, who speaks candidly about the choices
made with respect to risk and injury.
The show illustrates that taking smart risks is cool because it gives back the power of
choice to the teenager. There are no rules. Instead, HEROES simply shows teens
that they have the power to save a life their own. Theyre given five tools.
Buckle Up. Drive Sober. Look First. Wear the Gear. And Get Trained.
The program is based on a pilot project developed by the University of Alberta
Hospitals. Robert Conn revamped and renamed it HEROES.
Seven years ago, Conn was working as a pediatric heart surgeon removing hearts from
fatally injured people for transplant. Most of the donors were very young. Babies,
toddlers, children and teens lay dead on his surgical table. The medical charts read
"cause of death accident."
Conn thought the word "accident" made no sense. How could a car crash that
killed a two-year-old boy be called an accident when he was not harnessed in a car seat?
Why would police call a crash that killed a 15-year-old girl "accidental" when a
buckled seatbelt could have saved her life?
These deaths were caused by predictable and preventable events. They were caused by the
choices people made when faced with risk. Conn thought something could be done to show
Canadians how to make the right choices when faced with risk. Conn left his medical career
to set up SMARTRISK, a national injury prevention non-profit organization
dedicated to reducing the rate of injury and injury-related deaths.
HEROES is designed to galvanize the support of the community, so that the
messages reach a variety of audiences. From the initial booking to final presentation,
public health workers, community activists, educators, political leaders, parents, and
clubs and associations often work for several months on organization and promotion.
Local co-ordinators receive a "How to Host HEROES Guide" and
teachers are given a resource guide illustrating different ways in which the key messages
can be incorporated into classes. Ten local student volunteers are selected to become
members of the stage crew before the technical team rolls into town. Six students help the
technical team set up the show, and the other four take an active role in delivering the
program to their peers.
Often, HEROES is a catalyst for developing injury prevention coalitions and has
sparked some communities to hold wide-ranging HEROES Festivals. Organized around
HEROES shows, festivals draw the support of an entire community through trade shows,
speakers, events and displays.
So far, 10 communities across Canada have hosted HEROES Festivals. In Kelowna, B.C.
SMARTRISK helped organize a broad-based coalition with support from the police and
fire departments as well as from "risk-taking" groups like snowmobilers and
motorcyclists. Displays were set up focusing on how to "risk it right", and the
mayor declared those days Injury Prevention Week. The HEROES Festival became the
best-attended event in the citys history.
More than 650,000 teens nation-wide have seen the award-winning show, and some 14,000
students have participated in the set-up and delivery of the shows. Traditionally a
difficult group to reach with respect to safety, youth have responded positively to the
shows messages by talking about how theyll think differently about the risks
in their own lives.
|DEATH BY INJURY
Every year, over two million Canadians are injured. Every hour, one Canadian dies from
an injury. The rate of injury in Canada has reached epidemic proportions, costing $8.7
billion each year in health costs.
Death by injury is the # 1 killer of Canadian youth.
If you would like HEROES to visit your community, please contact HEROES
co-ordinator Kim Diamond at (416) 463-9878 or fax (416) 463-0137.