On March 19, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health held a hearing with regards to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), designed to review the efforts for prevention and treatment of TBI (Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2012). Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), Chairman of the Subcommittee, laid out the basic statistics for the record: 1.7 million Americans suffer from TBI costing nearly $48 billion on expenses both directly related to TBI and those caused by TBI. According to those on the panel, TBI is difficult to diagnose, difficult to identify, difficult to treat and difficult to evaluate after a particular course of treatment. The panel was in agreement that there needs to be increased funding for TBI research and greater coordination across public agencies and private researchers.
This hearing came less than one week after a murderous rampage by American soldier and TBI sufferer Robert Bales, killing 16 Afghan civilians (Dao, 2012). Due to the unfortunate circumstances of Bales' previous brain injury and subsequent attack, the misunderstanding and potential mistreatment of TBI was forced into the public eye.
This hearing was conducted to evaluate the status of coordination of research and what future funding may be required. Patients are at risk for long-term complications, ranging from the physical to the emotional, financial and social; TBI can influence every aspect of a person's life, and this has created a need for federal programs to coordinate any existing state programs in order to create the most efficient environment for research and understanding (Pallone).
The panel included Bonnie Strickland, Ph.D., Director of Services for Children with Special Health Care Needs; William Ditto, MSW, Director of the New Jersey TBI Division, New Jersey Department of Health; Flaura Winston, MD, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Scientific Director, Center for Injury Research and Prevention, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Mark Ashley, ScD, President for Centre for Neuro Skills.
Each panel member presented a different point of view on the issue of TBI: Strickland spoke on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, Ditto from the perspective of a state-run program, Winston as both an educator and a doctor in the field and Ashley as a doctor working in the rehabilitation of those who have suffered TBI.
Winston stressed the need for prevention tactics for TBI among children, timely, efficient care and optimal recovery. Winston also noted the need for specialized research for TBI in children, as children should never be treated as "little adults" due to the way that the brain develops with age.
Ashley pointed out that 5.3 million children and adults suffer from long-term problems related to TBI, and pointed out the dramatic funding deficiencies, citing that the NIH only gave out $81 million for TBI-related research, as a portion of the $30 billion total NIH budget.
Ditto called for a shift away from federal grants being used on the state level for short term projects and requested moving away from a model where researchers are "competing" for funding; only 21 states received grants for TBI funding. He also called for increased multidisciplinary care, as no two sufferers are alike nor are the treatment and rehabilitation strategies always the same.
Strickland stated the goals of a new working group on TBI (consisting of representatives from the Department of Defense, Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs) were to maximize efficiency and minimize duplication through collaboration and leveraging resources. With strong research in the field being conducted by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, Strickland said public research efforts should work with these departments in order to create a "single clearing-house" for TBI research and information, specifically via the creation of a brain injury research database to offer collaboration and coordination of efforts.
These goals, ambitious in nature, would certainly help coordinate the efforts of TBI research. TBI is a major health concern that requires appropriate resources; in order to help prevent, treat and rehab those affected by this condition, it is necessary to maximize federal efforts toward a single goal.
To access the full hearing and related documents, see A Review of Efforts to Prevent and Treat Traumatic Brain Injury.
The Committee on Energy and Commerce. (15 March 2012). Internal Memo, Re: Hearing on Traumatic Brain Injury. Retrieved from http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/Hearings/Health/20120319/HMTG-112-HHRG-IF14-20120319-SD001.pdf.
Dao, James. "At home, asking how 'our Bobby' became war crime suspect." New York Times. March 18, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/us/sgt-robert-bales-from-small-town-ohio-to-afghanistan.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all.
A Review of Efforts to Prevent and Treat Traumatic Brain Injury, 112th Congress. (19 March 2012).
Published On: April 04, 2012