Primary health care approach to trachoma control in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia
AuthorLansingh, Van Charles
AffiliationMedicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences: Centre for Eye Research Australia
Centre for Eye Research Australia
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsLansingh, V. C. (2005). Primary health care approach to trachoma control in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. PhD thesis, Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2005 Dr. Van Charles Lansingh
This study concerned a primary health care approach to trachoma control in two Central Australian Aboriginal communities. The World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated that the best method to control trachoma is the SAFE strategy (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial hygiene, and Environmental improvements), and this approach was adopted. The communities, Pipalyatjara and Mimili, with populations slightly less than 300 each, are located in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AP) lands of Central Australia, in the northwest corner of the South Australia territory. At Pipalyatjara, a full SAFE-type intervention was undertaken, with the ‘E’ component designed and implemented by the NHC (Nganampa Health Council Inc.). At Mimili, only a SAF-type of intervention was implemented. Baseline data was gathered for 18 months from March 1999 through September 2000 (five visits to Pipalyatjara and four at Mimili), and included determining trachoma prevalence levels using the WHO system, facial cleanliness, and nasal discharge parameters. A trachoma health program was implemented at the end of this period and a one-time dose of azithromycin was given in September of 2000. The chief focus of the study was children under 15 years of age. Improvements in road sealing, landscaping, and the creation of mounds were started to improve dust control. Concurrently, efforts were made in the houses of the residents to improve the nine healthy living practices, which were scored in two surveys, in March 1999 and August 2001. Trachoma prevalence, and levels of facial cleanliness and nasal discharge were determined at 3, 6, and 12 months following antibiotic administration. In children less than 15 years of age, the pre-intervention prevalence level of TF (Trachoma Follicular) was 42% at Pipalyatjara, and 44% at Mimili. For the 1-9 year age group, the TF prevalence was 47% and 54% respectively. For TI (Trachoma Intense), the pre-intervention prevalence was 8% for Pipalyatjara, and 9% for Mimili. The TF prevalence, adjusted for clustering, and using only individuals present at baseline and follow-up (3, 6, and 12 months post-intervention), was 41.5%, 21.2%, 20.0%, and 20.0% at Pipalyatjara respectively. For Mimili, the corresponding prevalence figures were 43.5%, 18.2%, 18.2%, and 30%. In the 1-9 year age group, a lower TF prevalence existed between the pre-intervention and 12-month post-intervention points at Pipalyatjara compared to Mimili. The TF prevalence after the intervention was also lower for males compared to females, when the cohorts were grouped by gender, rather than community. It is posited that reinfection was much higher at Mimili within this age group, however, in both communities, there appeared to be a core of females whose trachoma status did not change. This is speculated as mainly being caused by prolonged inflammation, though persistent infection C. Trachomatis cannot be ruled out. Facial cleanliness and nasal discharge continued to improve throughout the intervention at both communities, but at the 3-month post-intervention point no longer became a good predictor of trachoma. It is not known whether the improvements in the environment at Pipalyatjara were responsible for the reduction in trachoma prevalence 12 months after the intervention, relative to Mimili.
Keywordstrachoma; Central Australian Aboriginal communities
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