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There are no samovars in Ra'anana's kindergartens, and awnings at the playgrounds protect the children from the sun. Many elderly residents use special mats to prevent slipping in the bathtub and have handrails in their toilets to help them sit and get up. The town's industrial zone has recently opened a training center for parents on how to install baby and toddler safety seats in their vehicles.

Due to these accomplishments, the World Health Organization (WHO) this week awarded Ra'anana the title of "Safe Community." Hailed as the first safe community in the entire Middle East, Ra'anana has joined 87 other world communities holding this title.

WHO representatives awarded the title certificate to new mayor Nahum Hofri, who signed a treaty undertaking to continue to act to reduce the rate of injury from accidents of all kinds and promote this approach in Israel and the world.

Ra'anana launched the WHO's Safe Community program to encourage more responsible and safer behavior some five years ago. Spearheaded by Deputy Mayor Tzipi Dolfin, who heads the premature babies unit at Meir Hospital, the project first located high risk groups by surveying who came to the hospital's emergency room. The largest groups were babies and toddlers up to age 4, 19- to 25-year-olds injured in traffic accidents and people aged 65 and over who fell and broke a hip.

The next stage was locating the causes of injuries and finding ways to reduce their number or prevent them. For example, the municipality tested the elderly for their balance, sight and hearing abilities, and sent them to six-month courses designed to reduce their susceptibility to falling. The course included how to get up and sit, what shoes to wear, and how to walk on a wet surface. At the end of the course the participants were examined again. Some 35 percent were found to have improved movement and had applied what they learned.

Following this success, the Maccabi Health Maintenance Organization invited the elderly to make sure they were taking correct medication doses and that they were no contraindications in their medication.

The municipality purchased bath mats, handrails and small night lamps, which volunteers installed in elderly people's homes. The municipality is planning to expand the program to old age homes.

After finding that some 50 percent of parents did not put their toddlers in safety seats while driving, Dolfin says the hospital opened the parents' training center and an information center about baby safety for new mothers.

Kindergartens in town were scanned for risk factors. Among other things doorstops were installed to prevent doors from swinging shut on children, and regulators controlling water temperature were installed on faucets.

Schoolchildren were given maps marking the safest routes from their homes to school. Next year a survey will examine how how many children ride bicycles to school and whether they have places to store their helmets.