…and another report from the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health Conference being held in Sydney over the past two days.
Anne Messenger reports:
Early findings from a study into the effects of environment on the health of urban Aboriginal children have demonstrated the need for critical intervention points that can be scaled up, for children at risk of largely unrecognised and untreated conditions such as speech and language problems, many of which have only been identified by the screening processes in the study.
Professor Jonathan Craig, from The University of Sydney and the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, presented early findings from the SEARCH (Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health) longitudinal cohort study of Aboriginal children living in urban areas in western Sydney, Newcastle and Wagga attending Tharawal, Western Sydney, Awabakal and Riverina Aboriginal medical services.
Professor Craig said early data have found a lack of early medical attention for medical conditions that could benefit from intervention, especially around ear health.
The SEARCH study is a partnership between Aboriginal communities and researchers sponsored by CRIAH, which is a partnership between the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW and the Sax Institute.
While 53% of Aboriginal people live in cities and large regional centres, only 10% of studies investigating Aboriginal health are done in urban areas, and SEARCH aims to help address that imbalance. The cohort includes 1700 children from around 700 families in the four AMS areas.
Community identified priorities for research include mental health and emotional wellbeing, ear health, speech and language, resilience, obesity, exercise and green space, and housing.
Thirty per cent of children live in environments with serious housing problems including rising damp, cracks and lack of free space.
In relation to ear health, Professor Craig said 40% of young children in the study had red ear drums, 40% had fluid and 15% hearing loss. Forty per cent were language impaired.
In terms of development and emotional wellbeing, 60% of the children were at high risk of developmental disability focussed on parental concerns about school, behaviour and language; while 40% had a moderate risk of emotional and behavioural problems.
“Broadly the picture is one of chronic disease in carers, concerns with housing, middle ear infection, hearing impairment, speech and language delay, and educational, emotional and behavioural concerns,” Professor Craig said.
“We need to explore critical intervention points that can be scaled up, for largely unrecognised and untreated conditions.
“To improve long term outcomes for emotional wellbeing, education and employment, we need evidence based interventions and health service enhancements to break the cycle.”
• Anne Messenger is Communications Director of the Sax Institute
Previous Croakey reports from CRIAH conference
…And a positive story from the north coast of NSW about the benefits of a fresh produce delivery program… why can’t we have more stories like this?