Environmental Health Trachoma Project


About the Environmental Health Trachoma Project

The Environmental Health Trachoma Project (#endingtrachoma) aims to reduce the incidence of trachoma and skin infections in ‘trachoma at risk’ Aboriginal communities in remote WA by December 2020.

Why Trachoma?

Australia is the only developed country that has endemic trachoma. Almost all the cases of trachoma are detected in remote Aboriginal communities. Trachoma is caused by a bacteria and is completely preventable. Yet is it the world’s leading cause of infectious blindness. Trachoma easily spreads from one person to another through infected eye and nose secretions. It can be prevented by reducing risk factors such as poor hygiene, litter and dust and overcrowding. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the goal of eliminating trachoma by 2020. Countries such as Morocco, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, China and Cambodia have eliminated trachoma over the last ten years. Australia needs to be added to this list.

How will the project work?

This project is primarily focusing on the E strategies within the WHO SAFE trachoma strategy, but will also address the F. E represents environmental change and F symbolises facial cleanliness. The project will work the regional Public Health Units and our Aboriginal Environmental Health workforce, who are located within Aboriginal communities, to develop a Community Environmental Health Action Plan (CEHAP) which will identify and plan for sustainable and realistic trachoma prevention strategies (within a broader environmental health context). Key strategies within the project include working with local Aboriginal communities to identify what they think could be done within their communities to reduce trachoma and other hygiene related illnesses and include these as an integral component within the CEHAP. The #endingtrachoma project has also developed two trachoma advertisements which have been designed to run before and after the community movie night…just as a reminder about what we are trying to achieve in communities. The project will provide funds for community led demonstration projects each year. These projects will have an environment health focus that aims to reduce trachoma. Potential projects could include in-home bathroom assessments and minor maintenance, a community laundry service or tree planting to suppress dust. The list is endless and up to the community!

Giving Back

Although the team will need to collect some data, we want to give back to the communities. When the team visits each communities to gather the information needed for the CEHAP, we want 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 [1].  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. The events will include a community BBQ, a movie night and child focused activities.

Team members

Along with the Aboriginal Environmental Health Practitioners, the #endingtrachoma project is led by Dr Mel Stoneham, with Scott MacKenzie as Project Officer. You can read more about these PHAIWA staff members on the ‘Our Team’ section of the home page.

The following short video clip is one of our Aboriginal Environmental Health Workers, Chicky Clements from Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation in Broome talking about the #endingtrachoma project.

[1] A formal research framework surrounds this community led program. More detailed information on measures and evaluation are available by contacting Dr Melissa Stoneham on m.stoneham@curtin.edu.au.

ending trachoma advertisements launched!

The #ending trachoma advertisements were launched by Alex Lush from Lush Digital, the content agency on Thursday 19 September 2019 at the 12th National Aboriginal Environmental Health Conference in Perth. One advertisement shows how trachoma gets progressively worse through the life span, if hands and faces are not kept clean. The second advertisement shows how trachoma can be prevented by washing your hands and face with soap. The advertisements were filmed in Broome, Western Australia and feature some Aboriginal Environmental Health Workers. The voice-over was done by Stan Masters, the AEHW at Derbarl Yerrigan.

The advertisements have been designed to use in Aboriginal communities at events, in clinic waiting rooms, and during bathroom assessments conducted by the Aboriginal Environmental Health Workers.

Watch the advertisements here:

Northern Goldfields Project 

The #endingtrachoma project is working with Aboriginal communities and service providers to reduce trachoma and other hygiene related conditions by ensuring homes have functional bathrooms. The Aboriginal Environmental Health Workers are going house to house to identify and where possible fix minor issues. If the fix is major, the Housing contractors are coming in behind to ensure the bathroom plumbing and drainage is all working. It’s a great partnership! We are also fitting mirrors at child height, towel holders, providing soap and talking about how to wash your face and hands at each visit. In some communities, the HACC team come along to clean.
Here’s a short video demonstrating what we are up to.

A message from Chicky Clements 

Chicky Clements for Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation in Broome, and one of WA’s senior Aboriginal Environmental Health practitioners, talks about the #endingtrachoma program – what it involves and what it is trying to achieve.