About ThinkFirst

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million persons in the United States sustain a brain injury, and thousands more sustain a spinal cord injury. In fact, injury is the leading cause of death among people between the ages of 1 and 44. Traumatic injuries are an epidemic.

Unlike most epidemics, this one is preventable now. You don't have to wait for a cure. Most injuries can be prevented with safe engineering and safe actions. 

The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation's educational programs are aimed at helping people - especially those at high risk: children, teens and young adults - learn to reduce their risk for injury. Compelling presentations explain how an injury can change a person's life forever and how important it is to make safe choices. The message is simple: Use your mind to protect your body! Drive safely, buckle up, wear protective sports gear, avoid violence, don't dive into shallow water and avoid falls. Think first!

The ThinkFirst Foundation provides onsite or online chapter training to hospitals and health-related facilities. ThinkFirst chapters provide our powerful, thought-provoking programs to students of all ages. "Street Smart," the Safety Superhero, delights young children, while teens relate to our VIP speakers - Voices For Injury Prevention - who explain how a traumatic injury needlessly changed their life. Each year ThinkFirst chapters provide thousands of educational presentations to schools, businesses, organizations, conferences, and community events in order to raise awareness on preventing injuries.

ThinkFirst is your source for:

  • Theory-based, evidence-based injury prevention programs for all grade levels

  • Compelling educational presentations: use the 'Chapters' tab to find a ThinkFirst Chapter near you

  • Injury prevention facts

  • Educational materials and resources

  • ThinkFirst chapter training

  • Injury prevention involvement: speaker, volunteer and support opportunities


ThinkFirst's mission is to prevent brain, spinal cord and other traumatic injuries through education, research and advocacy.


We strive for inclusivity so that people of all ages, wherever they may live, have access to quality injury prevention programs while fostering a culture of safety and positively influencing behavior to reduce injury.


The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation was first implemented nationally in 1986 as the National Head and Spinal Cord Injury Prevention Program. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) directed two neurosurgeons, E. Fletcher Eyster, MD, of Pensacola, Florida and Clark Watts, MD, JD, of Columbia, Missouri to develop a national injury prevention program based on their previous prevention efforts in their respective communities. The program soon after was known as the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation.

ThinkFirst For Teens was developed for assembly or classroom presentation for high school and middle school students. The fast-passed presentation incorporated three components 1) "Harm's Way," the first of several award winning videos produced to kick off the presentation 2) the health educator presentation, using models of the brain, skull and spinal column to explain how injuries occur, why injuring the brain or spinal cord lead to permanent disabilities and how to avoid injury, and  3) testimony from a VIP speaker, Voices for Injury Prevention, sharing their personal story as to how they aquired a brain or spinal cord injury and how it affected their life. Optional components, such as utilizing paramedics to demonstrate prevention of further injury when treating someone with a suspected spinal cord injury, as well as an obsticle course that gave students an opportunity to experience use of a wheelchair were used in early years.

Within two years 115 chapters were trained. Each locally established chapter was coordinated by a health educator and a sponsoring physician who were committed to educating the community on injury prevention. Programs were presented in health, driver education, science classes and assemblies throughout the United States, reaching more than a half-million students each year.

The tremendous response to ThinkFirst led to the incorporation of an independent 501c3 non-profit organization. The films won awards and the presentations won the hearts of students and teachers alike. Chapter training was expanded to other countries, which led to the development of programs in French and Spanish, and an additional logo for international chapters, affiliating them with the ThinkFirst International Injury Prevention Foundation. There are currently more than 30 international chapters providing ThinkFirst programs in communities across the globe.

Over the years, ThinkFirst programs have been developed for all age groups. Each theory-based program was based on the Health Belief Model, which states, in brief, that in order to invoke behavior change, a person must recognize that something serious in the form of disease or injury could indeed happen to them, and that there is something relatively simple they can do to prevent it. This theory also states that it is important to continue with cues, or reminders, on a regular basis to keep the messaging in mind.

Program evaluation has always been encouraged. Several efficacy studies of ThinkFirst programs have been published over the years and are available on our website.

ThinkFirst Programs

ThinkFirst For Kids -- grades 1-3

ThinkFirst For Youth -- grades 4-5 and 6-8

ThinkFirst For Teens -- high school and college

ThinkFirst About Concussion -- youth and teens (parent class coming soon)

ThinkFirst To Prevent Falls -- older adults

ThinkFirst For Your Baby -- expectant and new parents (currently in OH, soon to be national)

ThinkFirst For Parents of Teen Drivers-First Impact -parents of teen drivers (currently in MO, MI, CO, OH, IN, AL soon to be national)

Awards and Recognition

  • The ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation has been recognized in many ways over the years for excellence in injury prevention:
  • 1987 ASAE Gold Circle Award for the educational video Harm's Way
  • 1988 Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiatives from President Ronald Reagan
  • 1989 Award for Excellence in Education and Prevention from the American Medical Association's Adolescent Health Congress
  • 1994 Educational video On the Edge released -- awards include:
    • Bronze Anvil Award from the Public Relations Society of America

    • Silver Screen Award from the International Film & Video Festival

    • Gold Winner of the Questar Award

    • Gold Plaque Award from the International Communication Film Festival

    • Telly Award for Outstanding Film Production

  • 2001 Life Space Adaptation Projects of the University of Toronto identified ThinkFirst as an example of "Best Practice" in the category of Comprehensive Community-Based Prevention Strategies. 
  • 2002 The California Department of Education recognized ThinkFirst For Kids as a research-validated program and accepted it into its California Healthy Kids Resource Center, making the curriculum and its supplementary materials available throughout the California educational system. 
  • 2008 ThinkFirst For Kids is featured as a "Best Practice" program in the 2008 Governor's Highway Safety Association Occupant Protection for Children Best Practice Manual
  • 2009 The ThinkFirst Foundation recieved the Congress of Neurological Surgeons Distinguished Service Award
  • 2010 Award of Merit from the Accolade Competition in Health/medicine/science for the educational video, Think About Your Choices

Today, the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation offers research-validated educational programs that have reached millions of young people nationally and worldwide.  Their network of chapters has influenced public policy initiatives, and continues to expand to reach those most vulnerable to traumatic injuries: our children, teens and young adults. By virtue of their work in treating patients who have sustained traumatic injuries, physicians and health professionals are natural spokespersons for injury prevention. Trauma, rehabilitation and children's hospitals, as well as medical universities find ThinkFirst offers the speaker training, chapter support and program materials they need for providing injury prevention educational programs. ThinkFirst encourages health professionals to become involved -- start chapters or work with existing chapters -- to help us lower the incidence, cost and devastation of traumatic injury.