Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

07 December 2016

Sydney Children's Hospitals Network (SCHN) is involved in two recently announced National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project grants aiming to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Through Dr Hasantha Gunasekera, The Children's Hospital at Westmead will be part of a large multi-centre clinical trial of treatments for otitis media in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (the INFLATE trial). 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.

Dr Gunasekera previously led the highly successful HEALS project, which funded 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 were assessed and provided therapy or surgery as needed, which showed early intervention can lead to significant improvements in these children.

“Even from an early age, children who cannot hear well because of middle ear problems are set on a potential trajectory of disadvantage, poor education and poor health outcomes,” says Dr Gunasekera.

Led by colloborators at the University of Western Sydney, The NHMRC-funded INFLATE trial will examine the efficacy of novel devices for the treatment of otitis media, or "glue ear", which may help the children avoid surgery and improve outcomes.

In more good news, SEARCH (Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health), has also received renewed funding from NHMRC for 2017-2020. led by the Australian National University (ANU) in partnership with Sydney Children's Hospitals Network researchers (Dr Hasantha Gunasekera and A/Prof Sue Woolfenden), The SEARCH Study will provide new "Evidence for action to improve the health of urban Aboriginal children and adolescents". SEARCH is a major ongoing research project with significant involvement and leadership from the Centre for Kidney Research

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