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.
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 works 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 identifies and plans 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.
Training of the workforce is a major focus for the project. A training needs analysis identified a range of training gaps, and we work with our partners to develop and deliver these opportunities. A priority for the 2020 year, will be the training of both clinicians and AEHP in environmental health referral systems.
Safe Bathroom and Laundries
One of the key areas for the #endingtrachoma project is the safe bathroom and laundry assessments. We upskill the Aboriginal Environmental Health Professionals and support them to determine the effectiveness of bathroom plumbing (health hardware) and whether bathroom facilities in Aboriginal communities are safe for people to wash in. This includes identifying repairs needed to make a bathroom and laundry functional, the provision of mirrors, towel hooks, coloured towels to enable family members to identify their own towel, free soap in conjunction with the Squeaky Clean Kids project and one on one conversations with householders about the important of how and when to wash their hands and face. One of the most important components of the safe bathroom and laundry program is the coordination with Housing and contractors to ensure they are onsite in community to coincide with the assessments. This enables trades to follow the Aboriginal Environmental Health Professionals through the homes and fix identified issues.
Here is a short video of how that component of the project works:
The project provides support and funds for community led demonstration projects each year. These projects have an environment health focus that aim to reduce trachoma.
Giving back to the community
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. 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.
Below are some pictures from some of these events.
The #endingtrachoma project has developed or promote a number of resources to support practitioners in field. These include:
- 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. They are also ideal to run in clinic waiting rooms. These adverts are free to use.
- Two stickers – one focusing on hand and face washing and the other on the 6 steps to prevent germs (see below).
- A hand washing cartoon that is perfect for use in clinic waiting rooms or as part of a hygiene related health promotion or education program (view below).
- Milpa goanna suit available for loan.
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.
#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.
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.
Thank you video
This short video acknowledges the many public health practitioners who worked behind the scenes and contributed to flatten the COVID-19 curve. The public health sector’s work often goes un-noticed due to our focus on prevention so we thought it was important to shine a light on this important role.