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

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