The Blast Impact and Survivability Research Unit (BISRU) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering is hosting a blast injury workshop on Wednesday 27 March in conjunction with the University of Southampton.
Attending the international workshop will be multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians and academics from the UK and South Africa from both engineering and medical backgrounds, plus participation from the NGO, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and participants from Zimbabwe who design demining personal protective equipment for humanitarian deminers, plus input from the demining charity, The HALO trust.
Why is it important to be holding this workshop and launching this research network?
Blast injuries caused by conflict, legacy landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) represent a global humanitarian challenge, posing a serious and ongoing threat to civilian populations. An estimated, 110 million legacy landmines still exist around the world with Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Mozambique, Turkey and Zimbabwe being among the most contaminated countries. From 1999-2016, landmines and ERW caused an estimated 113,000 blast casualties, although this is thought to be significantly underestimated as many casualties still go unrecorded. In 2016, an estimated 78% of blast-related casualties were civilians, of which 42% were children. The threat of blast injuries affects millions globally, particularly vulnerable populations within low- to middle-income countries.
Working with countries directly affected by blast injuries from landmines and ERW will offer a unique insight into the political, clinical and policy-making challenges posed by these issues. The Universities of Southampton and Cape Town are working at building and developing new relationships with Sub-Saharan African countries, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, some of the worst affected African countries in terms of landmine contamination and resulting blast injuries. Engagement with these countries will allow them to identify research gaps, health challenges and priorities of these nations, understand current blast injury clinical interventions and ascertain how blast injury research has potential to benefit vulnerable civilian populations.
What is new or innovative about this?
The shared vision is to improve the impact, effectiveness, fairness and relevance of blast injury research to address humanitarian civilian health issues caused by landmines, ERW and conflict. Investment into blast injury research, and appropriate methodologies, should be relevant to deliver the greatest overall positive impact. There is currently no global database of historic and current blast injury research and the current evidence-base to inform research strategies, methodologies, funding decisions and health policy is widely accepted to be insufficient and out of date. Blast injury research requires a trans-disciplinary approach but typically remains a clinically-driven field. Many studies report incomplete blast parameters with limited transparency on the blast loading conditions considered or assumed, making it challenging to compare or relate them to real-world blast threats, injury scenarios and the populations concerned. Both of these issues make it challenging to assess the clinical and public health impact of blast injury studies, the effectiveness and fairness of funding and how health systems can sustainably absorb findings to direct new research priorities and improve health outcomes.
The preliminary research undertaken to map global investments and review scientific methodologies of blast injury research will provide the foundation for a detailed, highly granular evidence-base. This will be used to evaluate the relevance and impact of funding decisions and methodologies to inform future research priorities and decision making.
The development of the Sub-Saharan Africa Blast Injury Network will maximise the impact of the proposed research through engagement with in-country stakeholders across multiple sectors. This will provide a platform and route to impact so that the research evidence-base can be utilised to inform future research and investment strategies, decision-making and promote uptake and translation of research findings into policy and clinical practice. Engagement with these stakeholders will also provide opportunities for feedback on the project and opportunities to tailor the research to suit country-specific needs.
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