Aboriginal research to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal children and family

30 June 2020
Aboriginal Health

Kids Research, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network respectfully acknowledges Aboriginal people as the traditional custodians of the land on which our health facilities are located and the areas from which our patients are spiritually connected to.

We pay our respects to the Elders, community members, our Aboriginal staff and the Aboriginal services and organisations who work closely with us to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people.

Research into Aboriginal health has never been more important. In line with Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) Aboriginal Health Strategic Plan 2018-2021, here is an outline of the collaborated research currently being undertaken to improve the health outcomes for Aboriginal children and their families.

ARDAC – Antecedents of Renal Disease in Aboriginal Children and Young People Study

Started back in 2002, the ARDAC study is a community-based, longitudinal cohort study that aims to find answers to why the risk of chronic conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes are so much greater for Aboriginal Australians. There are now 3758 participants in the study, consisting of children and young people from schools and communities across urban, regional and remote NSW.

ARDAC will establish the life course for chronic disease among Aboriginal people from childhood to adulthood, and will extend partnerships with ACCHSs into evidence- informed, sustainable programs and services to prevent chronic disease in high risk young Aboriginal people.

Learn more about ARDAC here

Social prescribing for housing to address child health inequities: developing equity focussed pathways for clinicians to improve child health

This project addresses the research gap by testing the feasibility, acceptability and appropriateness of an equity focussed pathway to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal families at risk of or experiencing poor health due to housing issues in South East and South West Sydney. The EFP includes a brief screening assessment and decision tree with action including referral to appropriate agency. The EFP will be piloted with families in 2020 and aims to increase the accurate “diagnosis and treatment” of housing problems that directly impact on children’s health and improve referral of families to the correct services.

SEARCH Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health

An estimated 60% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australia is attributable to the health of people living in non-remote, urban areas. While 57% of the Aboriginal population lives in urban areas, recent data suggests only 10% of Aboriginal health research focuses on the needs of urban Aboriginal people; and even less on childhood, where health inequity begins. 

SEARCH – Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health is the largest cohort study (approx. 1700) of urban Aboriginal children in Australia, enabling assessment of the variables associated with good health, including a particular focus on the social determinants of health.

INFLATE (Autoinflation for otitis media with effusion among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children)

About a quarter of Aboriginal children living in urban areas have ear disease, which often causes hearing and speech problems and can impact on their ability to learn at school. INFLATE - a multi-centre clinical trial of treatments for otitis media in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will compare nasal balloon autoinflation versus no nasal balloon autoinflation for otitis media with effusion.

WATCH - Watchful waiting compared to immediate antibiotic therapy non-inferiority trial among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in urban settings with acute otitis media without perforation

The WATCH RCT study aims to test and providence evidence for the safety and effectiveness of watchful waiting (currently the recommended treatment guideline) compared to immediate antibiotic therapy non-inferiority trial among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in urban settings with acute otitis media without perforation.

HEALS (Hearing Ear Health and Language Services)

The HEALS Project funds specialist services such as audiology, speech therapy, and ear, nose and throat specialist services for Aboriginal children across five Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations in NSW. Over 300 children have been assessed and provided therapy or surgery as needed, which showed early intervention, can lead to significant improvements in these children.

Improving the health, mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in a remote Indigenous Community: The Bigiswun Kid Project

The aim of the Bigiswun Kid project is to follow-up and evaluate the health, mental health and wellbeing of the Lililwan Cohort at 17 –19 years, ten years on from the Lililwan Project. The Lililwan Project was the first Australian population-based prevalence study in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

In 2010, interviews were conducted with parents and caregivers of 95% of children born in 2002-2003 (aged 7-9 years) and living in the Fitzroy Valley in 2010. Of the children, 55% were exposed to alcohol prenatally, usually at high-risk levels, and almost all had experienced early life trauma. Comprehensive, multi-disciplinary neurodevelopmental assessments of 85% of these children showed 19% had FASD, a rate amongst the highest worldwide.

The findings from the Bigiswun Kid Project will help improve our understanding of the impacts of FASD and early life trauma on adolescent outcomes in remote Aboriginal Communities. Information on service use and needs will inform future health, mental health, and disability service planning; local capacity will be built through training local health workers, and individual assessments will help support adolescents with a disability to access the NDIS.

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