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Otitis Media in Indigenous children – are we there yet?



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10th November 2011

In the 1970s the National Trachoma Eye Health Program reported otitis media as a major health issue for Indigenous children with around 18% toddlers having chronic suppurative otitis media, CSOM, or “runny ears”.  Latest figures on the prevalence of otitis media confirm the urgent need for improved primary, secondary and tertiary services, greater awareness through national campaigns, and increased resources to reduce risk of early and recurrent infection and to address the consequences of hearing loss.

At the same time, there is increasing evidence of the impact of conductive hearing loss on child behaviour and communication and the increased risk of mental health disorders.

A large body of otitis media research is being conducted in Australia, with researchers meeting biannually at OMOZ to discuss progress and to prioritise future research effort.

Progress in OM research from around Australia will be summarised and priorities for the future proposed for discussion.

Associate Professor Amanda Leach is a Principal Research Fellow and Leader of the Ear Health Research Program within the Child Health Division at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin.  A/Prof Leach is committed to evidence-based and multidisciplinary research addressing the health problems of Aboriginal children living in remote communities.

Her work, largely funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) includes prevention and treatment trials including a number of antibiotic trials and a randomised controlled trial to compare two pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, Synflorix and Prevenar13, either alone or in a combined 4-dose schedule – the PREV-IX_COMBO trial.

Her team was awarded the MJA/Pfizer Australia Research Award for the best research article published in the MJA in 2010.  In 2011 A/Prof Leach was awarded a prestigious 5 year NHMRC Research Fellowship.