I was delighted to review this manual, having had the previous privilege of joining its lead author, Professor Harvey Coates, in one of his indigenous ear health clinics just outside Perth, Western Australia. Prof Coates has worked with a broad range of experts to complete this manual, including Professor Kelvin Kong, the first Aboriginal surgeon in Australia. The manual opens with a stark fact:
“The state of a nation’s health can be measured by the prevalence of children with chronic suppurative otitis media. Otitis media in all its forms is a disease of poverty.”
Hearing loss affects the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disproportionately, due to high levels of undiagnosed and/or untreated childhood ear disease. The manual’s introduction makes clear its admirable purpose; to supplement primary care guidelines on the management of otitis media in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander populations, with background teaching material and resources. The manual offers healthcare providers the latest ear health knowledge in a comprehensive, yet straightforward format, for diagnosing and treating otitis media and related hearing issues.
Supported by the Garnet Passe and Rodney Williams Foundation, this excellent manual is explicit regarding the populations for whom it is intended. The high-quality, accessible content is, however, more widely applicable to populations in other low-income countries with similarly high prevalence of ear disease, where untreated childhood otitis media can have a lifelong impact on speech and language development and subsequent educational vocational and psychosocial outcomes.
I heard there may be plans to distribute the manual more widely, and I hope this is true. It is a brilliant piece of work which has the potential to make a sustained, meaningful impact on the health of indigenous populations in Australasia, and beyond.