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Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health

SEARCH is the result of a collaboration between a number of organisations, including the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health (comprising the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council and the Sax Institute), NSW Department of Health, the University of Sydney and six Aboriginal Medical Services across New South Wales.

The increased risk for chronic disease seen in Aboriginal adults may start to manifest in older Aboriginal children and young Aboriginal adults. Hence, we propose to follow the cohort for a further six years with three sets of tests each two years apart, and to recruit new high school participants and other sources during the first round of testing so as to maintain study power.

The SEARCH program aims:

  • To describe and investigate the causes of health and illness in Aboriginal children with a focus on healthy environments and selected child health problems by
    • a cross sectional study of 800 families in urban and large regional centres
    • a prospective cohort study of the 800 families over 5 years
    • a prospective cohort study of the 800 families over 20 years
  • To determine whether a community appointed health broker in (i) a randomised trial focussed on otitis media and (ii) a feasibility trial of housing improvement is an effective, sustainable agent for improving the environment and health of aboriginal children and their families.

Background research

The Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health represents an opportunity to develop research in NSW that meets the needs of Aboriginal communities and is consistent with the goals of the NHMRC Roadmap. Otitis media was considered to be a priority for the local Aboriginal communities involved in the design of the study and a large component of the SEARCH program will involve assessing the ear health of urban Aboriginal children. However, the study will not be limited to otitis media as many other child health problems such as growth, development, obesity, behaviour problems, mental health issues and housing quality will be examined.

Studies in remote Aboriginal communities, with large number of adults with kidney failure, have detected high numbers of children with blood and protein in their urine. We do not know if Aboriginal children in the southern states, where about 50% of Aboriginal children live, are more likely to have blood and protein in their urine compared with non-Aboriginal children.

Researcher Team

  • Jonathan Craig
  • Hasantha Gunasekera