Aboriginal perspective on middle ear disease in the arid zone of Western Australia

C.A. Jeffries-Stokes, Deborah Lehmann, J. Johnston, A. Mason, J. Evans, Dimity Elsbury, K. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To explore perceptions, knowledge and experience of otitis media (OM) and barriers to compliance with treatment among Aboriginal people of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder area, Western Australia.Methods: This qualitative applied research study is based on a holistic design. We conducted structured interviews with three community focus groups, 56 key informants, and 22 mothers of babies known to have suffered from OM. Written records of interviews were checked with participants. The three sources of data enabled comparison and verification of results.Results: People were concerned about serious consequences of OM, especially deafness and learning difficulties. Since early disease may have no localizing symptoms, not surprisingly, people had limited understanding of the aetiology of OM and were often only aware of disease once ear discharge was visible. Nevertheless, they usually sought treatment for non-specific symptoms. Competing demands in people's daily lives and the unpleasant, intensive nature of treatment result in families becoming resigned to a child's chronic ear discharge. Someone other than the biological mother within the extended family may be responsible for administering treatments. Half the carers thought passive smoking may predispose children to OM and 70% suggested clearing the nasal passages to prevent OM. Results of surgery were viewed positively but specialist services were not always readily accessible.Conclusion: Since responsibility for treatment may not lie with the biological mother, awareness campaigns must target the entire community. As early OM may be asymptomatic, health personnel should be encouraged to do otoscopy on all children with non-specific symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-64
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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