Auckland University of Technology (AUT) has launched an initiative to bridge the gap between research, clinical care and public policy in the prevention and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
The TBI Network will act as a hub for research, training, education and networking, fostering collaboration between patients and whānau, cultural advisors, service providers, clinicians, researchers and policymakers.
TBI Network Director Associate Professor Alice Theadom said that by working together, priorities can be set for traumatic brain injury prevention, clinical care and rehabilitation and taking steps to ensure that developments in research are effectively translated into clinical practice and public health policy.
The not-for-profit research network also aims to reduce the devastating impact of TBI on patients and whānau, the huge public health burden and economic cost.
Causes for brain injury
Ms Theadom said that about 36,000 people in New Zealand suffer a TBI each year.
“A majority of them are caused by falls, being hit by (or hitting your head against) an object, motor vehicle accidents and assaults. The estimated annual cost to the public health system is $100 million,” she said.
Infants, children and adolescents are at greater risk than any other age group. Men are twice as likely as women to sustain a moderate to severe TBI. Māori and Pacific peoples have increased incidence and mortality rates following TBI. They are also more likely to have a prolonged stay in hospital and be discharged without community services.
One in three New Zealanders experience at least one TBI by the age of 25, Ms Theadom said.
“Public awareness of TBI has grown, but it has not been sufficient to prompt policy change. Additionally, policymakers tend to take small steps, building on existing policies rather than establishing the type of wide reforms needed to tackle TBI,” she said.
A Psychologist at the AUT School of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, Ms Theadom is a Rutherford Discovery Fellow and member of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences.
Gap between Research and Practice
She currently leads a programme of research that looks at how to prevent and support recovery following a TBI.
Ms Theadom said that while a lot has been achieved over the past 10 years, a gap remains between research and clinical practice.
She said that healthcare in New Zealand can be highly variable.
According to TBI patients and whānau, the current system is fragmented. At a clinical level, TBI poses significant challenges for treatment and rehabilitation. Highly developed systems are required to manage patients effectively across the injury severity spectrum with any continuity from prehospital to post-acute care. Yet, there is a lack of evidence-based guidelines to inform service providers, she said.
Better prevention, improved systems of care and long-term investment in TBI research across a broad range of disciplines is desperately needed.
Ms Theadom said it was time for a new approach.
“We need to focus on research that matters. It is crucial that people affected by TBI and service providers are involved in shaping what research needs to be done. If we can work together throughout the process, we can deliver research that meets their needs and makes a real difference,” she said.
“It can take a long time for research to lead to changes in everyday practice, but the TBI Network is dedicated to finding new and creative ways to make research readily available and have a more immediate impact,” she said.
AUT is the Sponsor of the ‘Business Excellence in Ethics’ Category of the Twelfth Annual Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards 2019. The above is an edited version.