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Bridging the Gap Foundation is helping Indigenous communities address ear disease

2 min read

Leading Indigenous health and education charity, Bridging the Gap Foundation (BTGF), announces its latest fundraising campaign, which aims to address ear disease and hearing loss in rural and remote Indigenous communities, where these issues are particularly prevalent amongst children.  

Ninety per cent of Indigenous children in remote areas of the Northern Territory currently suffer some form of otitis media, a middle ear disease that results from inflammation and/or infection, causing hearing loss.  

The disease has been found to persist for years in up to seventy per cent of Indigenous children, with nearly thirty per cent developing chronic ruptured eardrums, the most severe form of the disease which causes hearing loss classified as disabling by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  

“Many infections of the ear are painful, but typically, Indigenous children often do not present with ear pain, so ear problems are not identified by parents or health staff and go untreated, leading to ongoing and sometimes profound hearing loss,” said Professor Amanda Leach AM, Menzies School of Health Research. 

Leach highlighted that it is possible to detect and successfully treat common ear infections before they turn into lifelong problems. 

Notably, these rates are the highest reported in the world – a factor that directly contributes to life-long health and educational disadvantage amongst Indigenous populations, as well as limited employment opportunities.  

Preventing chronic ear infections can therefore contribute to closing the nine-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, according to Bridging the Gap Foundation.  

BTGF’s annual tax-time appeal is currently raising funds to assist in Indigenous ear health education and the early detection and treatment of otitis media.  

Donations received during the appeal will fund a number of initiatives, including the training of Indigenous ear health facilitators in remote communities, and the purchase of mobile testing equipment to support their work.  

“The funds that Bridging the Gap is aiming to raise for community-based action on ear and hearing health is a game-changer for our mob,” said Professor Kelvin Kong, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). 

According to Kong, a proud Worimi man and the first Indigenous fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), BTGF’s appeal will directly benefit communities on the ground and make real change in the lives of Indigenous kids.  

“We know that ear and hearing health is critical to overall health and quality of life, and at present, the ear disease rates we’re seeing within our mob are horrific, with disease that is occurring earlier and longer, and which has more profound outcomes.” 

The appeal, which directly aligns with BTGF’s mission to improve and advance the lives of Indigenous Australians through projects that increase their health and education opportunities and outcomes, is now seeking tax-deductible donations via the link below. 

“It’s appalling that we live in this dichotomy where a first world country has a third world health statistic – and that’s why it’s vital we put capacity back in our community’s hands to drive change on the issue of ear health.”  

Related: Hearing Australia’s First Nations Services Unit is working to improve the hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children 

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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