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Report on Traumatic Brain Injury Calls for Improved Research and Service Delivery

Shepherd Center clinicians contribute to CDC report, which was requested by Congress.

Traumatic brain injury can have lifelong effects on the injured person and their family, as well as society and the economy, but comprehensive rehabilitation can improve the overall quality of life, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that includes insight from Shepherd Center clinicians.

The report, available in PDF format, is intended to improve understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among researchers, public health practitioners and decision-makers, including those in Congress. It includes a number of recommendations for research and treatment aimed at improving outcomes.

“Congress requested this report as an update and review of brain injury management in children and adults,” explains Susan Johnson, director of Shepherd Center’s Acquired Brain Injury Program. “The report identifies ongoing and potential opportunities for research and gaps in service delivery for people with TBI.”

The update was prompted by the federal TBI Reauthorization Act, which was originally passed in 1996 and reauthorized by Congress in 2000, 2008 and 2014. The TBI Act represents a foundation for coordinated and balanced public policy in prevention, education, research and community living for people with TBI. The law allocates federal funds to federal agencies – including the CDC, National Institutes for Health and Health Resources and Services Administration – for programs supporting people with TBI.

The report is the result of a collaborative effort among many TBI researchers and clinicians, including Johnson and Shepherd Center physicians Ford Vox, M.D., and Andrew Dennison, M.D. Johnson was involved in the subcommittee examining delivery of TBI rehabilitation care and services in the United States. Drs. Vox and Dennison contributed to a section on acute inpatient rehabilitation needs.

Among the reports recommendations are:

  1. Improve estimates of TBI, including the collection of data on occurrences, causes, treatment sought and disabilities stemming from the injury
  2. Enhance measures used to evaluate rehabilitation success, including the use of health information technology to track outcomes
  3. Improve TBI rehabilitation research and service delivery, including studies that reveal the optimal timing, intensity and frequency of rehabilitation therapies, as well as the development of promising rehabilitation technologies

“The public health burden of TBI is substantial – affecting the lives of millions nationwide,” according to the report. “While prevention of TBI is the key public health strategy for reducing the burden, it is imperative for those in public health, clinical practice and research to design and evaluate effective rehabilitation strategies that reduce the negative health effects of TBI.

“However, access to services may be limited for those in need due to cost, geographic restrictions and insurance,” the report adds. “Filling critical research gaps, increasing access to care and improving the effectiveness of rehabilitation services can help lead the way to improve the overall quality of life for persons living with TBI and their loved ones.”

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About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.