Story and photos by Samantha White
Twice a year, downtown San Antonio streets close to vehicles, allowing community members a safe place to ride bikes, run, scoot, walk, and exercise. This event, Síclovía, encourages exercise and healthy habits to battle obesity. TAFP Past President K. Ashok Kumar, MD, is faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and attends Síclovía each year along with medical students and residents. They give away bicycle helmets to kids, fitting them with the right size helmet and teaching them the importance of protecting their heads while biking. At this biannual event and others like it, Kumar suspects he has given kids thousands of helmets.
Kumar and physicians across the state give children free helmets every year through the Texas Medical Association’s Hard Hats for Little Heads program, a public health initiative created to prevent head injuries due to bicycle accidents. In honor of the 20th anniversary of the Hard Hats program, TMA started 2014 with a goal of giving out the 200,000th helmet by the end of the year.
2014 also marked the 10th anniversary of TAFP’s involvement in the program. In those 10 years, TAFP has helped sponsor hundreds of Hard Hats events and given out over 26,000 helmets through family physicians like Kumar. To celebrate the Academy’s anniversary in the program, the TAFP Board of Directors approved extra funds for this year’s budget to allow more TAFP members to hold Hard Hats events.
View more photos from Dr. Kumar’s Hard Hats event.
Here’s how the program works: physicians sign up with TMA and order up to 100 helmets to be distributed at school safety demonstrations, community fairs, wellness visits, and other events. The TMA Foundation covers the cost of up to 50 helmets and TAFP covers the cost of an additional 50 helmets for our members, thanks to the generous support of the TAFP Foundation and the AAFP Foundation.
Some physicians choose to keep the helmets in their offices and give them out over time at clinical appointments, while others attend community-wide events like Síclovía to distribute their helmets. Kumar has been holding Hard Hats for Little Heads events and giving out helmets since the beginning of TAFP’s involvement in the program. He typically collaborates with other organizations like the Bexar County Medical Alliance, the TMA Medical Student Section, and the UTHSCSA Family Medicine Interest Group.
Kumar likes to invite his medical students to attend these events with him so they see what it’s like to be a family physician who is active in the community
“The most important thing is for them to get involved in the community, because doctors are an important part of community,” Kumar says.
“Meeting people on the streets is an informal way outside the clinic setting to make them feel comfortable to ask questions. We want people to know that we as physicians and medical students in the community care about what they do. It is a two-way street, that people know about us and we know about the people in more intimate surroundings.”
The process to get helmets through the Hard Hats program is simple; physicians submit a request to TMA and once approved, the helmets are sent to the physician’s office or event location. TAFP members are sent “Family docs care 4 kids” stickers to put on helmets before giving them out. If you are holding an event and have not received your stickers and would like them to put on your helmets, contact TAFP’s Samantha White at email@example.com. Physicians interested in getting involved with the Hard Hats program can contact TMA’s Tammy Wishard at firstname.lastname@example.org.