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Development of the Indigenous Ear health workers portal is being undertaken by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet in partnership with Menzies School of Health Research. Its development is being guided by a national Reference Group and the Indigenous EarInfoNetwork, an informal national network of people working in the field of Indigenous ear health and hearing.
Funding for the Indigenous Ear health workers portal is provided by the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH). Other support is provided by Edith Cowan University.
Development of the Ear health workers portal recognises the urgent need to improve approaches to otitis media and hearing loss, which are serious public health problems for Indigenous Australians. According to the World Health Organization, rates of ongoing middle ear infection with eardrum perforation and discharge (chronic suppurative otitis media) that affect more than 4% of the population represent a serious public health problem. In some remote Indigenous communities, rates of ear drum perforation exceed 60%, and up to 50% of children have been found to have educationally significant hearing loss and would benefit from sound amplification. Some Indigenous children have pus discharging from their ears for years. This impairs hearing in the short term, and affects essential early childhood development (particularly speech development). It can also lead to permanent hearing loss if parts of the middle ear and ear drum are damaged. Hearing loss can affect a child's education and social relationships, and even job opportunities in adulthood. The reasons for the very high rates of ear disease are complex, but include poverty, poor housing, overcrowding and an over-stretched health care-system.
There is a large body of knowledge about how best to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage middle ear disease and associated communication and learning problems, but many people involved in the area of Indigenous ear health, hearing and education work in remote areas of Australia and do not have ready access to good quality information and resources.
The Ear health workers portal: includes resources; programs, projects; publications; and links. It also includes information about organisations, news and events and training programs.
The resource has been designed to cater to an audience of mixed cultural and educational backgrounds. Some people will not have ready access to the Internet and so the resource will actively encourage the downloading of material for use by Indigenous families and communities.
Development of this web resource and the associated yarning place is guided by a national reference group. The EarInfoNet Reference Group, comprising people working as practitioners, and/or researchers in the area of ear health and hearing among Indigenous peoples, provides advice on:
Details about the members of the EarInfoNet Reference Group can be found here.