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Rebecca Y. Du, Melissa A. LoPresti, Roxanna M. García, and Sandi Lam

OBJECTIVE

Road traffic accidents are the most frequent cause of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), particularly among young populations worldwide. Helmets are proven to prevent injuries; however, estimates of helmet compliance are low globally. Surgical/critical care management of TBI is often used to treat these injuries, but primary prevention should be recommended. A key component in promoting TBI prevention among pediatric and young populations is through helmet legislation. The authors investigated helmet policies for motorcycles and bicycles globally to provide recommendations for how related legislation may impact TBI and guide advocacy in pediatric neurosurgery.

METHODS

The authors conducted a systematic review of helmet laws and/or policies by using the National Library of Medicine PubMed and SCOPUS databases. Additional articles were identified using citation searches of key publications. Abstracts from articles of all sources were read and selected for full-text review. Details of relevant full articles were extracted and analyzed for the following: bibliographic data, study aim, design and duration, study participants, intervention characteristics, and intervention effect data.

RESULTS

Of 618 search results, 53 full-text articles were analyzed for recommendations. Helmet legislation is associated with increased helmet use among bicyclists and decreased road traffic accident–related head injuries and fatalities among motorcyclists and bicyclists. Laws are more effective if comprehensive and inclusive of the following: both primary riders and passengers, all age groups, all modes of transportation made safer by helmets, a proper use clause, and standardized helmet quality measures. Cultural, socioeconomic, and infrastructural circumstances are important as well, and legislation must consider enforcement mechanisms with penalties significant enough to incentivize behavioral changes, but proportional to community socioeconomic status.

CONCLUSIONS

Compulsory use laws are the optimal primary intervention; however, concurrent programs to support financial access to helmets, change cultural attitudes, increase health literacy, and improve road infrastructure will augment legislative benefits. Pediatric neurosurgeons are caretakers of children suffering from TBI. Although extensive study has explored the surgical management of TBI, the authors believe that primary prevention is instrumental to improving outcomes and reducing injury. All helmet laws are not equal; based on these findings, a comprehensive, context-specific approach is the key to success, especially in resource-limited countries.

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Nathan A. Shlobin, Melissa A. LoPresti, Rebecca Y. Du, and Sandi Lam

OBJECTIVE

Neural tube defects (NTDs) are common congenital neurological defects, resulting in mortality, morbidity, and impaired quality of life for patients and caregivers. While public health interventions that increase folate consumption among women who are or plan to become pregnant are shown to reduce folate-sensitive NTDs, public health policy reflecting the scientific evidence lags behind. The authors aimed to identify the types of policies applied, associated outcomes, and impact of folate fortification and supplementation on NTDs worldwide. By identifying effective legislation, the authors aim to focus advocacy efforts to more broadly effect change, reducing the burden of NTDs in neurosurgery.

METHODS

A systematic review was conducted exploring folate fortification and supplementation policies using the PubMed and Scopus databases. Titles and abstracts from articles identified were read and selected for full-text review. Studies meeting inclusion criteria were reviewed in full and analyzed for study design, aim, population, interventions, and outcomes.

RESULTS

Of 1637 resultant articles, 54 were included. Mandatory folate fortification was effective at reducing folate-sensitive NTDs. Mandatory fortification also decreased hospitalization rates and deaths after discharge and increased 1st-year survival for infants with NTDs. Recommended folate supplementation also resulted in decreased NTDs; however, issues with compliance and adherence were a concern and impacted effectiveness. Folate fortification and/or supplementation resulted in decreased NTD prevalence, although more change was attributed to fortification. Dual policies may hold the most promise. Furthermore, reductions in NTDs were associated with significant cost savings over time.

CONCLUSIONS

Both mandatory folate fortification and recommended supplementation policies were found to effectively decrease folate-sensitive NTD rates when applied. A comprehensive approach incorporating mandatory folate fortification, appropriate folate supplementation, and improved infrastructure and access to prenatal care may lead to decreased NTDs worldwide. This approach should be context-specific, emphasize education, and account for regional access to healthcare and social determinants of health. With wide implications for NTDs, associated health outcomes, quality of life of patients and caregivers, and economic impacts, policy changes can drastically improve global NTD outcomes. As caretakers of children with NTDs, the authors as neurosurgeons advocate for a comprehensive policy, the engagement of stakeholders, and a broader global impact.