Children who suffer traumatic brain injuries, and who are from poorer families that don’t speak English well, may not get the critical care they need, according to a study from the University of Washington.
After a traumatic brain injury, children require physical therapy and mental health treatment that can last months or years. The study found that already disadvantaged children are further impacted by limited access to the rehabilitation services that can vastly improve long-term outcomes.
“Findings of this study provide actionable evidence pertaining to disparities in access to rehabilitation services among children with traumatic brain injury, highlighting a specific case of notable inequalities in healthcare utilization in the population,” said Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, a co-author of this study and assistant professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health.
The study was led by Dr. Megan Moore, the Sidney Miller Endowed Assistant Professor in Direct Practice at the UW School of Social Work and a core faculty member at the UW, and was published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.
The researchers surveyed nearly 300 health care providers around Washington State. These included providers of physical and occupational therapy; speech, language and cognitive therapy; and mental health services. The researchers found that less than 20 percent of providers accepted Medicaid and also provided language interpretation to children with traumatic brain injuries. Only 8 percent provided mental health services to those children.
Additionally, Spanish-speaking parents had to drive longer distances than English-speaking parents to access care for their children, the report noted.
“We need to be thinking more critically about how we transition kids back to the community, particularly children we know have limited access to services,” Dr. Moore said. “We really have to do a thorough job of linking them to these services on the outpatient side.”
The research was funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.