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Remote WA Indigenous communities keep infections at bay through new initiative with Curtin University

In the remote Indigenous communities of WA, trachoma and other infectious diseases are often contracted by the lack of fresh bedding.

However, a new initiative launched in Kalgoorlie by Curtin University’s Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAWA) will see a new mobile trailer rolling into town, sporting two heavy-duty washing machine/dryer units to withstand the punishing conditions and trips out to remote communities. 

Dr Melissa Stoneham from Curtin’s School of Public Health is the project leader for his important initiative and is also heavily involved in the broader Environmental Health Trachoma Project, which aims to reduce the number of "Trachoma at risk" Aboriginal communities in WA.

What is Trachoma?

It's an indictment of sorts that Australia, as first-world country, "is the only developed country that has endemic trachoma". Studies have shows that trachoma is nearly always detected in remote Aboriginal communities. Caused by bacteria, Trachoma spreads quickly through communities "through eye and nose infections", ultimately leading to blindness.

Considering Trachoma cannot be cured, other factors that play an important part in reducing risk include poor hygiene, litter and dust. Indeed, the cases of Trachoma are so well known now that the World Health Organization (WHO) has set the ambitious goal of eliminating the infection from the world.

If countries such as Morocco, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, China and Cambodia have eliminated trachoma over the last ten years. Australia has no excuse for not joining the list.

Giving back to the community

A key part of making this project successful will be the sense of involvement, indeed relationship, the remote Aboriginal communities in WA have with the Community Environmental Health Action Plan (CEHAP) project.

"As the team collects some data for the CEHAPS, we want to give back to the communities. When the team visits each communities to gather the information needed for the CEHAP, we aim to provide a community event where we can engage with the community and in the interests of reciprocity, thank them for hosting the #endingtrachoma team," the projects says.

"It is not the aim of this engagement event to change behaviour but to thank the community and provide an opportunity to build the capacity of the Aboriginal Environmental Health Workers on how to organise and run a community event.

"These events do, however, reinforce the important messages that were delivered throughout the community visit. The events are tailored to each community and may include a community BBQ, a movie night and child focused activities."

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