This resource sheet reviews past and current programs, research and strategies (both government and non-government) for the prevention and treatment of ear disease in Indigenous children.
Ear disease and the associated hearing loss are significant health problems for Indigenous children. Children in many Indigenous communities suffer from chronic ear disease, in particular otitis media, at rates that well exceed the 4% threshold at which a disease is regarded as a major public health problem. Ear disease, particularly where it leads to hearing loss, is a large contributor to poor educational achievement and higher unemployment and, as a consequence, greater contact with the criminal justice system later in life.
While the roots of this disease essentially lie in disadvantage and poverty, a number of environmental factors, individual genetics and microbial genomic factors also contribute. Preventing ear disease in Indigenous children by tackling these factors is a high priority.
While the social and biological bases of ear disease are reasonably well understood, many programs and strategies for its prevention do not appear to have worked effectively. In some cases, programs to prevent ear disease and associated hearing loss have been implemented without sufficient planning and high quality evidence. However, recent health services delivered under the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (SFNT) strategy have shown some success in reducing hearing loss, the prevalence of otitis media, and the severity of hearing impairment.
This resource sheet reviews past and current programs, research and strategies (both government and non-government) for the prevention and treatment of ear disease in Indigenous children. While the focus of the document is on preventing ear disease, programs aimed at treating infection and minimising hearing loss are also reviewed.