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Congressional Hearing on Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment & Prevention

The U.S. Congress is getting into the act to learn more about how traumatic brain injuries are affecting community members. C-Span provided a summary of recent efforts by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Health to take at look at the issue and see if there was more that could be done to help those involved. In particular, the group of legislators is examining both public and private effort to prevent and treat the injuries and the subsequent disabilities. The hearing this afternoon comes amid growing national attention being devoted to these issues.

Considering the total number of community members affected by this injury, it is no surprise that there has been federal involvement in traumatic brain injuries for over fifteen years. The first federal initiatives to tackle the problem took the form of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996. Over the next decade and a half various amendments to the bill have also passed which promote education and treatment protocols. The legislation used various approaches to encourage more research into treatment and diagnosis options. In addition, the bill sought to improve the overall awareness effort. Awareness levels are now higher than they probably have ever been. However, that does not mean that there is not still room for improvement. Our Illinois brain injury lawyers know that for many, their first encounter with TBI is when someone they know suffers the head injury.

At the hearing-led by Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Joe Pitts-the committee heard testimony that reiterated the significant scope of the TBI problem. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was rolled out which indicates that as many as 1.7 million American suffer a TBI each year. In total, falls are considered the leading cause, particularly for the most vulnerable in the community (those under 4 years old and over 75 years old). While falls cause more individual cases of TBI than any other single type of incident, automobile accidents usually cause the most serious TBIs. In particular, brain injuries that end up with a death are far more likely in car accidents than any other causes. Of course, the wide range of causes of TBIs mean that it is somewhat difficult for legislators to narrowly come up with some single solution which would tackle the prevention problem. As it now stands the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spends about $400 million on various TBI programs. Those programs are geared both at prevention and treatment.

The hearing in large part was a discussion of the impact that the funding has had on both goals. The HHS Federal Traumatic Brain Injury Program is a comprehensive effort that helps both the victims of these injuries as well as their families. The comprehensive approach to support is important in these cases because, perhaps more so than with other types of injuries, TBIs truly affect entire families. When one’s personality, memories, and other cognitive functions are impaired, spouses, children, parents, siblings, and other have their lives turned upside down. Having various programs to support all those affected remains and important and worthwhile goal.

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