Our research will deliver important knowledge about the impact of non-hospitalised injuries, such as whiplash of the neck and spine, injuries to upper and lower limbs, lacerations and contusions. These musculoskeletal conditions and injuries that most often result from road traffic crashes, account for a large and increasing proportion of disease burden worldwide. In Australia, non-hospitalised road traffic crashes injuries are associated with total costs of almost $1billion per annum, which exceeds the combined costs of spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. In contrast to severe injuries, research effort and expenditure on non-hospitalised injuries is scarce, perhaps due to the inaccurate stereotypical view that they are less significant. Better outcomes for people who sustain these more prevalent injuries would lead to large direct savings in health care and insurance costs. Importantly, our research will also improve overall well-being and productivity for a vast group of individuals, leading to additional indirect benefits.
The vast majority of people with non-hospitalised road traffic crashes injuries are not admitted to hospital and are usually managed in primary care by GPs and physiotherapists. Most recovery (if it occurs) takes place in the first few months post injury after which time the trajectory plateaus with little further improvement. This early post injury time frame therefore represents a tight ‘window of opportunity’ in which to prevent chronic physical and mental health effects. At present, the management of injured people in the community context is typically ad hoc with little guidance provided to clinicians, stakeholders or injured individuals as to the best management options. Whilst clinical guidelines exist for some conditions they are based on limited evidence and have not been shown to improve outcomes. To complicate this picture, many injured people, particularly those who lodge a claim for compensation, feel that their condition is not validated and that practitioners are suspicious of their motives.
The coordination and integration of interdisciplinary research in non-hospitalised injuries through the proposed Centre of Research Excellence offers great potential for effective new approaches to health delivery including improved early assessment, procedures and tools and new models of care. This collaboration of leading researchers in Australia will ensure innovative research outputs that will improve health outcomes and decrease costs associated with non-hospitalised injuries.
The Centre of Research Excellence will provide a platform for the translation of evidence from our clinical and epidemiological research (i.e. studies of the physiological, psychological and social/environmental processes, disability and mental health problems; screening, prediction and outcome modelling) into innovative health delivery models and service delivery systems in primary care and other community settings. The Centre of Research Excellence will actively engage key stakeholders including policy makers, practitioners and consumers from the early stages of development of the research program. We will train the next generation of interdisciplinary researchers who will be exposed to the full scope of the problem from clinical and population-based research through to the challenges of implementation, practice and policy change. To achieve this, we will develop a nationally integrated training program and a hub for consolidating and expanding our national research and training initiatives. We will leverage complementary expertise in clinical and translational research to provide a high quality experience for the future research leaders in this field.