Training program to improve ear health among Aboriginal people

A training program to assist Aboriginal Health Workers to provide ear health care to their communities is being delivered around the state by the Aboriginal Health Council of WA.

The two week ear health training program was delivered in four different locations last year, and 23 Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs) have graduated from the course so far.

The program is scheduled to be delivered in at least four more locations this year including Perth, Broome and Kalgoorlie. More trainings will be scheduled for the second half of the year.

The program teaches AHWs how to manage ear infections, carry out screening, identify risk factors and plan ear health promotion and strategies.

AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said poor ear health was a significant problem among Aboriginal people, particularly children.

“The prevalence of ear disease and hearing loss in Aboriginal kids has a major effect on their speech and educational development, social interactions, employment and future wellbeing,” she said.

“While many children are vulnerable to chronic ear disease, in WA it represents a significant burden for Aboriginal children who can experience their first onset within weeks following birth.

“Aboriginal children can also have more frequent and longer lasting episodes compared to non-Aboriginal children.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said people in regional areas were more susceptible to ongoing ear problems.

“Children living in remote communities have some of the highest rates of chronic ear disease in the world,” she said.

“We want to spread the message in regional communities that early detection and treatment of ear diseases in children is vital to ensure optimum development of speech, language, and to minimise the long term effects on educational performance.”

AHCWA has also launched a giant inflatable ear to be used as an interactive teaching tool among Aboriginal communities.

Koobarniny, which means ‘big’ in the Noongar language, is believed to be the first of its type in Australia.

Koobarniny is currently being used at different events around the metropolitan area, but it’s hoped it will travel to regional areas in the future.

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