A new multi-disciplinary partnership has been launched to help address the problem of dog-bites in Merseyside, which has the highest number of dog-related injuries and deaths in the UK.
Dog bites take a serious toll on human health in the UK. Nationally there are approximately 30,000 GP visits, 6,000 hospital admissions, 12,000 occupied bed days and an average of four fatalities per year as a result of dog bites, costing the NHS £3.3 million. In addition to physical injury dog bites also have psychological, emotional and physical health impacts.
Given the nature and the extent of the problem in Merseyside many organisations have developed their own strategies and activities to reduce dog bites or to manage their consequences. However, the extent to which these strategies have been coordinated has been limited until now.
The People, Animals and their Health in Society (PATHS) group at the University of Liverpool undertakes multi-disciplinary research examining health in people and animals. This approach is grounded in the recognition that human behaviour is a key driver of changes in the health of both humans and other animals.
The group, which is led by Dr Rob Christley, Dr Francine Watkins, Dr Carri Westgarth and Professor Liz Perkins, have been working with Merseyside Police, Royal Mail, the Communication Workers Union and a number of other agencies to gain further understanding of how dog bite incidents are responded to and recorded.
In addition, a PhD studentship funded through the University’s Institute of Risk and Uncertainty and the Dogs Trust is examining the way in which the public and postal workers can be protected from dog injuries
More information needed
Dr Rob Christley, from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “Currently, we do not have enough information about how dog bites occur and the full effect they have on those who are injured.
“In the course of this work, we have identified that a wide range of agencies are involved in managing or preventing injuries arising from dogs. However, currently the extent to which these efforts are coordinated is limited.”
Researchers in the PATHS group have established a need for a more coherent, integrated strategy which draws together all the agencies currently working to prevent or manage dog-related injury.
Last month PATHS hosted a workshop with key stakeholders across the Merseyside region to explore the feasibility of launching a network to enhance the impact of each organisation’s activity.
Dr Christley, adds: “There was overwhelming support from people attending the workshop for the development of a network to improve the sharing of knowledge and good practice, access to data, the coordination of activities and to identify gaps in knowledge.
“An initial goal of this collaboration will be to identify key targets for intervention to minimise the risk and impacts of dog bites and to develop an essential method to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.”
The new Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership, to be led by the University of Liverpool will coordinate, develop and lead activities in Merseyside in relation to reducing dog bites and their impact on the health of its population.
For more information about PATHS please visit https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/infection-and-global-health/research/PATHS/