Recognising the challenges that children in remote areas of Western Australia often experience in accessing services, Telethon Speech & Hearing has proudly partnered with Chevron Australia since 2011 to successfully deliver the Chevron Pilbara Ear Health Program to tens of thousands of incidents of care.
This remarkable program works closely with communities, government agencies, Mawarnkarra Aboriginal Medical Services, childcare providers, the Education Department and others to support local capacity building and provide comprehensive care.
Otitis media is a common middle ear condition that affects up to 90 percent of all children and is found to be more prevalent in Aboriginal communities. If untreated, it can lead to a temporary hearing loss, which can affect a child’s speech and language development, impacting on their education, social involvement and engagement within their community
With a focus on early diagnosis and intervention, the program aims to improve children’s ear health, in order to reduce the impact of ear disease on school performance. The improved educational outcomes will lead to greater opportunities for children across the Pilbara region.
The Chevron Pilbara Ear Health Program includes hearing screeners, audiologists, a nurse practitioner and an ENT specialist, some of whom are based in the Pilbara, while others make regular visits to the region.
Over the years, the program has branched out and expanded into a holistic model of care in the region, providing education and support across audiology, speech and language development and occupational therapy. These programs work in conjunction with the Ear Health program to identify, educate and support local children with their hearing, speech and learning, while supporting families throughout the journey.
Highly respected Perth Ear Nose and Throat specialist Dr Aanand Acharya has been integral to the team’s success for over a decade and has witnessed first-hand the positive outcomes of the program.
“The biggest difference I have seen is the improved level of engagement the community has with the program,” he explains. “There is an increased appreciation of the importance of good ear health, clients are keen to attend appointments, they encourage other members of their family and community to seek us out where they believe we can be of assistance to them, and the community elders endorse the program and are often clients themselves.”
While improved ear health has a visible effect on an individual level, Dr Acharya has also seen the broader impact the program is having on the communities in the region.
“Poor ear health is associated with educational and social disadvantages and consequently can be a significant hinderance to education and have lifelong impact,” he says. “Studies have demonstrated that the prevalence of ear disease among young children in remote communities is up to 90%. The program enables us to increase awareness among remote communities and empowers them to address this significant health issue through locally appropriate strategies.”
For 12 years, the Chevron Pilbara Ear Health Program has had a meaningful impact on the lives of rural children and communities. Through the committed efforts of Chevron Australia and Telethon Speech & Hearing, it can continue to grow and expand its footprint across the West Pilbara region, and potentially even further afield, as a successful model for rural ear health.
“We are committed to helping our local communities thrive by giving in areas where we think we can make a real difference,” said Chevron Australia Partnerships Manager Melissa Smith. “This partnership has touched so many people and will continue improving lives for years to come.”
Click here to learn more about the Chevron Pilbara Ear Health Program.