Research: Australian-first study to identify childhood injuries

Monday, 6 May, 2013

A major study involving Dr Rebecca Mitchell will be the first in Australia to examine the incidence of severe trauma in children.

The research, which is led by the University of Sydney, will also look at how to prevent serious paediatric injuries.

It was made possible by a $574,000 donation from the Day of Difference Foundation, which was formed in 2005 by Ron and Carolyn Delezio as a result of their first-hand experience of what parents can go through when a child is critically injured, as happened with their daughter, Sophie.

Since the inception of the charity, more than $2.5 million worth of life saving equipment, services and research has been provided to hospitals in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

The ground breaking six year study, the first stage made possible by the donation from the Day of Difference Foundation, will bring together the evidence needed to change healthcare policy to better support the parents of critically injured children as well as ensuring injured children are treated at the right hospital.

“More than 1000 children are hospitalised every week in Australia after sustaining an injury. This was double the number of children hospitalised for asthma, diabetes and cancer combined in 2006-2007,” said Dr Mitchell, from UNSW Transport and Road Safety Research in the School of Aviation.

The study and research program are being developed by Associate Professor Kate Curtis and Associate Professor Kim Foster, from the University of Sydney’s Nursing School, and Dr Mitchell.

Associate Professor Curtis said the research will, for the first time ever, describe the incidence of severe paediatric trauma Australia-wide and also seek to identify the unmet needs of the parents of injured children as they navigate a highly stressful experience.

"We want to find out what we can do to improve care for severely injured children and to help their families," Associate Professor Curtis said.

"Our research will enable us to target injury-prevention campaigns and policy at specific causes, so there can be fewer children suffering severe injury in the first place.”

A recent study by a team led by Dr Mitchell and published in Injury, the International Journal of the Care of the Injured, reviewed data from the NSW Trauma Registry on injuries in children under 15 years old between 2003 and 2008.

There were 1138 children severely injured, two thirds of them male. Road trauma and falls were the most common causes and more than a third of incidents happened at home. Almost 50 per cent of violence-related injuries were experienced by infants under one year of age.

“Children who received definitive treatment at a paediatric trauma centre had between 3 and 6 times higher odds of having a survival advantage than if treated at an adult trauma centre,” Dr Mitchell said.

UNSW Science media contact: Deborah Smith, 9385 7307, 0478 492 060,