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New Westmead Hospital study

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Improving treatment for child victims of domestic violence

A $25,000 grant from Slater and Gordon’s Health Projects and Research Fund is helping researchers at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead identify treatment shortfalls and improve recovery outcomes for children with non-accidental brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in children who have been abused, and the majority of victims are less than 12 months old.

Dr Mary-Clare Waugh is the head of The Brain Injury Service within Kids Rehab at The Children's Hospital at Westmead.

She said there is a lack of information available to doctors about the treatment and recovery outcomes of abused children.

“So far, studies have mainly focussed on the proportion of deaths resulting from situations of child abuse, but details about the treatment and recovery of these children is lacking,” Dr Waugh said.

“In order to enhance the quality of life, treatment and support of children who suffer deliberately inflicted brain injuries, we first need to understand what treatment these children receive and how this differs from accidental injuries.

“Thanks to Slater and Gordon, our research project will help to build a crucial foundation around treatment gaps and shortfalls, as well as establish the effectiveness of specific programs for abused children.”

Slater and Gordon NSW General Manager Rachael James is confident the Westmead Kids Rehab research project will have a profound impact in an area of such increasing concern.

“Sadly, our work means we see many children recovering from traumatic brain injuries and it’s heartbreaking to know that some of these injuries were not accidental,” Ms James said.
“Legally, we do everything we can to help children and their families in situations of abuse, but Slater and Gordon is also proud to fund research projects such as this, that create brighter futures for children recovering from non-accidental injuries.”

Dr Waugh said the study’s first goal is to look at short-term recovery rates.
“We want to develop a greater understanding of the prevalence of children suffering non-accidental injuries, including the proportion of traumatic brain injuries,” Dr Waugh said.

“We’re also going to review the health care needs of children admitted to hospital with non-accidental injuries and how they’ve recovered in the short term.

“From there, we’ll look at their medium and long term treatment outcomes by examining their cognitive, academic, language and fine and gross motor skills as they recover.