Objectives: Indigenous children in Australia experience high burden of persistent otitis media (OM) from very early age. The aim was to identify distinct trajectories of OM in children up to age 10–12 years and examine the association with socio-economic determinants. Study design: A multistage clustered national panel survey.
Methods: The study analysed the birth cohort of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children from 2008 to 2018, comprising 11 study waves. Group-based trajectory modelling was used to identify different trajectories of OM outcome. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to examine the relationship between trajectories and individual, household and community-level socio-economic determinants.
Results: This analysis included 894 children with at least three responses on OM over the 11 waves, and the baseline mean age was 15.8 months. Three different trajectories of OM were identified: non-severe OM prone, early/persistent severe OM and late-onset severe OM. Overall, 11.4% of the children had early/persistent severe OM from birth to 7.5 to nine years, while late-onset severe OM consisted of 9.8% of the children who had first OM from age 3.5 to five years. Children in communities with middle and the highest socio-economic outcomes have lower relative risk of early/persistent severe OM (adjusted relative risk ratio = 0.39, 95% confidence interval = 0.22–0.70 and adjusted relative risk ratio = 0.22, 95% confidence interval = 0.09–0.52, respectively) compared to children in communities with lowest socio-economic outcomes.
Conclusion: Efforts to close the gap in the quality of life of Indigenous children must prioritise strategies that prevent severe ear disease (runny ears and perforation), including improved healthcare access, reduced household crowding, and better education, and more employment opportunities.