Improving Aboriginal Children’s Ear Health

Response from entities

WA Country Health Service

The WA Country Health Service has a strong commitment to enhancing the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people and considering the unique needs of children. WACHS has developed a specific Aboriginal Health Strategy and a Healthy Country Kids strategy which combine to articulate our service focus for Aboriginal children in country WA. Key focus areas of the Aboriginal Health Strategy include maternal health and parenting, child health and development, and creating healthy environments.

The provision of ear health services to Aboriginal children is complex and challenging, with Government, private GPs/clinicians and Non-Government organisations (NGOs) involved in providing services from prevention through to treatment.

WACHS acknowledges that to make an impact on ear health in Aboriginal children a coordinated approach across the patient journey is required, including operational service coordination across the Federal and State Governments and the Non-Government sector to reduce service fragmentation and gaps. In this regard, WACHS supports a recommendation that relates to progressing the implementation of the WA Child Ear Health Strategy (the Strategy) to ensure a collaborative and consistent approach to tackling otitis media (OM) in WA.

WACHS has a well-established history of partnering with consumers and service providers in the design, delivery and evaluation of services. Since 2013-14 WACHS has worked with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector (ACCHS) and NGOs, providing funding via Grant Agreements to provide child and school health services in Aboriginal communities. In 2018, WACHS has established five year service agreements to guide the delivery of these services.

WACHS is also committed to working with consumers and key stakeholders to ensure their success in Aboriginal communities. WACHS will continue to partner and work collaboratively with the ACCHS, NGOs, private GPs, clinicians and community members to ensure ear health service delivery is flexible and meets community needs.

Important steps have already been taken by WACHS to leverage existing contact with Aboriginal families to increase early detection of OM through opportunistic ear checks. In 2019, WACHS will implement the Enhanced Child Health Schedule (ECHS) which will see all vulnerable children (including Aboriginal children) offered additional child health checks, over and above the universal child health checks, which will include provision of ear health checks.

Child and Adolescent Health Service

CAHS acknowledges the importance of progressing the implementation of the WA Child Ear Health Strategy with the aim of improving outcomes for Aboriginal children in the vital area of ear health. The impact of otitis media on the health and developmental outcomes of this vulnerable group of children are well documented. CAHS is committed to improving service delivery and making a difference in this area.

CAHS is committed to the provision of culturally safe services and seeks to actively partner with communities in ensuring that services meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. CAHS welcomes the recommendation to co-design ear health services for Aboriginal children. This will build on work already underway in relation to Aboriginal specific community based services.

The opportunity to increase ear health surveillance through opportunistic ear health checks has been recognised and CAHS Community Health is currently conducting a review of policy and practice to identify potential ways to enhance existing service provision.

Whilst acknowledging the significant role of CAHS, in providing a universal screening service for Aboriginal children within the metropolitan area and tertiary level specialist services within Perth Children’s Hospital, it is important to acknowledge that there are many other healthcare providers (Government and Non-Government organisations) delivering ear health services as part of the broader health system. The complexity of this system has been recognised and CAHS staff are committed to supporting clients to navigate the system and ensure their ear health care needs met.

CAHS is also committed to actively working with stakeholders to progress the priorities of the WA Child Ear Health Strategy, responsible for ensuring it is providing a service that meets the needs of its own clients and supporting the broader health system to implement the priorities of the Strategy.

Department of Communities

The Department of Communities acknowledges the recommendations made and the significant role it plays in the broad socio-economic and environmental health issues identified, including the provision of housing (to reduce overcrowding) and access to clean running water.

The Department looks forward to working more collaboratively with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to support improved ear health for Aboriginal children.

Department of Education

The Department of Education would like to acknowledge the significant work completed by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) in assessing current services available to support the ear health of Aboriginal children.

It is essential to work with other Government agencies, non-government providers, families and communities to support health, wellbeing, participation and achievement of Aboriginal children and young people.

The Department supports the OAG recommendations for extensive collaboration between health providers when implementing the WA Child Ear Health Strategy. The Department would welcome future opportunities to further engage in collaboration with health providers and communities to co-design effective and sustainable strategies to improve the ear health of Aboriginal children.

The Department will continue to provide public schools with professional learning, advice and guidance to ensure that ear health approaches are culturally responsive and informed by the Department’s Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework.

The Department promotes the use of a two-way approach in its design, planning and delivery of services for/impacting on Aboriginal people. Strengthening collaboration between schools and communities and across Government must incorporate both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspectives.

Page last updated: June 12, 2019

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