An evaluation of the quality of ear health services for Aboriginal children living in remote Australia: A cascade of care analysis

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Abstract

Background: In the Northern Territory (NT) the prevalence of otitis media (OM) in young Aboriginal children living in remote communities has persisted at around 90% over the last few decades. OM-associated hearing loss can cause developmental delay and adversely impact life course trajectories. This study examined the 5-year trends in OM prevalence and quality of ear health services in remote NT communities. 

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed on de-identified clinical data for 50 remote clinics managed by the NT Government. We report a 6-monthly cascade analysis of the proportions of children 0–16 years of age receiving local guideline recommendations for surveillance, OM treatment and follow-up at selected milestones between 2014 and 2018. 

Results: Between 6,326 and 6,557 individual children were included in the 6-monthly analyses. On average, 57% (95%CI: 56–59%) of eligible children had received one or more ear examination in each 6-monthly period. Of those examined, 36% (95%CI: 33–40%) were diagnosed with some type of OM, of whom 90% had OM requiring either immediate treatment or scheduled follow-up according to local guidelines. Outcomes of treatment and follow-up were recorded in 24% and 23% of cases, respectively. Significant decreasing temporal trends were found in the proportion diagnosed with any OM across each age group. Overall, this proportion decreased by 40% over the five years (from 43 to 26%). 

Conclusions: This cascade of care analysis found that ear health surveillance and compliance with otitis media guidelines for treatment and follow-up were both low. Further research is required to identify effective strategies that improve ear health services in remote settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1186
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank NT Department of Health for providing the PCIS data for analysis. This study was conducted as part of the Hearing for Learning Initiative, which is funded by the Australian Commonwealth Government, Northern Territory Government, and The Balnaves Foundation.

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank NT Department of Health for providing the PCIS data for analysis. This study was conducted as part of the Hearing for Learning Initiative, which is funded by the Australian Commonwealth Government, Northern Territory Government, and The Balnaves Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

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