- Trial to tackle high rates of hearing loss in urban Aboriginal population
- Local researcher awarded National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fellowship to undertake project
A Telethon Kids Institute researcher and Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) audiologist is hoping to discover whether telehealth technology and community-based Aboriginal health workers might be keys to reducing high rates of hearing loss in urban Aboriginal children.
Dr Chris Brennan-Jones is embarking on a study that should streamline the provision of routine audiology and ear, nose and throat (ENT) services for these children.
The goal of the project is to hasten the detection and treatment of children with Otitis Media (OM) - a group of middle-ear infections and the leading cause of childhood hearing loss.
OM affects more than half of Aboriginal children, leaving many with life-long hearing impairment and leading to delayed development and an increased risk of poor educational and mental health outcomes.
Despite the potential consequences of untreated OM, wait times for routine audiology and ENT assessments for children in Western Australia's public health system can be up to two and a half years.
As about half of Aboriginal children aged six to 24 months are already affected by OM and hearing loss, finding new ways of identifying and treating these children earlier is vital.
As part of this project, selected children from two south metropolitan areas of Perth will be screened in their communities by Aboriginal ear health 'champions' who have been trained to conduct routine audiology and ENT tests.
The results of these tests will be sent to a team of PMH ear health specialists who will review the results and, where necessary, develop treatment plans.
Families of children requiring treatment will be given the option of getting the plan from their local ear-health champion or via a live telehealth consult with the PMH team.
Comments attributed to Health Minister Roger Cook:
"If successful in fast-tracking screening and treatment, this pilot project could become a model arrangement for other urban areas both here and around the country.
"It has the potential not just to slash wait times but also to provide families with ear health care that is close to home and involves members of their own community.
"This project has been made possible because Dr Brennan-Jones has been awarded a highly competitive National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Research Fellowship as well as some additional NHMRC funds.
"He was also one of 16 local researchers awarded a WA Fellowship Merit Award last year in the State Government's Future Health WA program - an initiative designed to boost our health and medical research sector and lift WA's share of NHMRC funding.
"We are delighted that Dr Brennan-Jones' Merit Award will have contributed to such an important project - one that has the potential to change the lives of so many young Western Australians.
"Since coming into government, we have been working closely with a range of innovative health research projects to deliver the best possible health outcomes to the people of Western Australia.
"Preventative health is a crucial aspect of the McGowan Government's health policy which is why we are hosting the State's inaugural Preventative Health Summit in Perth next week, an event that has the potential to improve the lives of so many Western Australians."
Minister's office - 6552 6500