Middle ear infection (otitis media) in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is common, starts early in life, tends to be persistent rather than short term, and is often asymptomatic. If not detected and well-managed, the condition will affect children’s development and life trajectories. Ear health and hearing checks carried out by primary health practitioners are key to early detection yet are rarely carried out routinely. Further, the components of these checks vary significantly.
To develop evidence- and consensus-based, feasible recommendations for routine primary health Ear Health and Hearing Checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years and younger.
Dr Mary Belfrage, Ms Sam Harkus, Dr Michelle Kennedy (Wiradjuri), Prof Kelvin Kong (Worimi), Dr Carmen Kung, Ms Vivienne Marnane, Dr Isabel O’Keeffe, Dr Neil Orr, Dr John Skinner, Ms Meagan Ward.
The project is led by an inter-disciplinary, inter-agency team of Aboriginal and non-Indigenous researchers. A Working Group provide technical and cultural oversight, membership of which prioritises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and primary health clinicians.
A review of peer-reviewed publications and grey literature is undertaken to seek information on activities currently included in ear health and hearing checks in primary health settings, and the timing of these activities for young children at increased risk of otitis media. Using this information, draft recommendations are developed and presented for feedback to an expert panel of 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous ‘key experts’ who work in primary health and hearing health settings.
Based on the experts’ feedback, the recommendations will be refined and re-presented until consensus is reached. The recommendations will be finalised in consultation with the Working Group. Following this, small focus group discussions will be undertaken with primary health practitioners to explore considerations for implementation.
The final recommendations will be relevant to primary health practitioners who provide care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years and younger.
The project began in January 2021. As at the end of April 2022, the draft recommendations have progressed through to the second round of key expert consultation. The recommendations are expected to be finalised by June 2022