$2.98m grant will help track hidden patterns of domestic violence injuries


Researchers from UNSW will lead Australia’s first national injury surveillance system, a project designed to detect injury causes not collected in current data.

UNSW Sydney’s Dr Lisa Sharwood and her team have received a $2.98 million grant to build a national injury surveillance system, to better identify the causes, intent and location of injuries treated in emergency departments at Australian hospitals.

The project is one of 10 successful projects funded with grants totalling almost $30 million through the federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) National Critical Research Infrastructure initiative.

Dr Sharwood said the new national injury surveillance system will identify risks not currently captured such as domestic violence, child maltreatment, alcohol or drug misuse, intentional self-harm, or workplace risk.

In relation to domestic violence, she said: “We know that women admitted to hospital for domestic violence related injuries have had more Emergency Department (ED) visits than women of the same age admitted for non-domestic violence related injuries. However, for those who are not admitted to hospital following presentation to the ED, the cause of their injuries – including identification of the perpetrator – is not identified in the routine data.

“This national injury surveillance system offers the prospect of being able to connect ED data with violent and interpersonal crimes to identify/assist victims in a way that has not previously been possible,” Dr Sharwood said.

More reliable injury data

“The new system will provide better, faster, more efficient, and more reliable injury data on which to make policy decisions concerning the health of all Australians,” Dr Sharwood said.

“When we have a better idea of what causes injuries, it is easier to try to prevent them.”

The new system also aims to better identify priority populations, including people of low socioeconomic status, and those in rural and remote areas.

Currently, there is a vast variation between state systems in injury surveillance, with some states having no collection at all.

The project team will work with states and territories when they collate emergency department data, using artificial intelligence techniques, to develop a national injury surveillance system.

Reacting to new health threats

Dr Sharwood said having more timely injury data will improve the way public health systems react to new health threats.

“For example, our system will pick up certain drug related harms in some areas of the country, possibly even linked to a new street drug. We will be able to use the data to inform public health initiatives and take prompt and targeted action to reduce the burden of death and disability from injury.”

Key partners contributing to the project and who are each committing specific expertise, skills and services include the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine and the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

Leading academic researchers in the fields of family and domestic violence, musculoskeletal injury outcomes, legal aspects of injury, implementation science, economic evaluation and Emergency Medicine form part of Dr Sharwood’s team from the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, Macquarie University and the RPA Green Light Institute for Emergency Care.

UNSW Professor Rebecca Ivers, Head of the School of Population Health and Investigator on the grant said; “The funding acknowledges the importance and the long-recognised need to have better information about how, where, and why children and adults are injured and seek treatment in Emergency Departments.”

“The new system developed by Dr Sharwood and her team will create a rich data source and evidence base to inform prevention activities and guide policy, standards, and legislation with the aim of reducing injuries in the community.”

/Public Release.