NHMRC Public Consultations

Skip Navigation and go to Content
Visit NHMRC website

Targeted Call for Research - public call for research priorities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

ID: 
50
Personal Details
First Name: 
Alison
Last Name: 
Purcell
Specific Questions
1. What is the research priority (a significant research knowledge gap or unmet need) you are nominating? How would a TCR in this area greatly advance our understanding of this issue? (200 word maximum): 
Efficacy of hearing, speech and language intervention for Aboriginal children Aboriginal children have the highest rates of ear disease in the world. Most research in Australia has been conducted in remote settings. SEARCH (Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health) and HEALS (Hearing ear health and language services) have demonstrated there is also a significant burden in urban settings. SEARCH also reports for 800 children aged 1-7 years that 41% had impaired receptive language and 28% had impaired expressive language; these are substantially worse than the 13% reported for non-Aboriginal children. We assume that surgery and speech pathology intervention can improve hearing, speech and language outcomes. Globally, there is no published hearing or speech pathology intervention outcome data for Aboriginal children. Being successful with a TRC would advance knowledge by transforming hearing and speech pathology intervention for Aboriginal children by providing efficacy data and improving the confidence of speech pathologists to best provide evidence-based, culturally appropriate and respectful speech pathology services. It would improve the lives of Aboriginal children and work towards closing the gap through better hearing, speech and language skills before and during the school years which will increase literacy abilities, academic success and lifelong employment opportunities.
2. What are the relevant Australian Government Priorities, and/or Ministerially-agreed State and Territory health research priorities linked to your nominated priority? (200 word maximum): 
Improving the health of Aboriginal Australians is a national priority. The Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) has committed to closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians through six specific targets. The aim is to reduce the gap for life expectancy, child mortality, employment, access to preschool for Aboriginal children living in remote communities, literacy, and academic outcomes (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011). In 2013, as part of COAG’s Close the Gap policy the Australian Government released the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, to provide an evidence-based framework for improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013).
3. How would a TCR in this area contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and improve health outcomes for the individual and/or community? (200 word maximum): 
Aboriginal children living in urban, rural and remote settings have increased incidence of ear disease. Urban Aboriginal children have unacceptably high levels of language and speech disorder. Understanding how best to improving the hearing, speech and language abilities of Aboriginal children will allow them to commence and continue through school with hearing, speech and language abilities that will give them the greatest opportunity to be successful in learning to read and be more successful with their academic performance. Morevoer, it will improve Aboriginal people’s self-esteem and mental health.
4. How will the TCR reduce the burden of disease on the health system and Australian economy? (200 word maximum): 
Appropriate intervention of hearing, speech and language disorder is vital to ensure that Aboriginal children have the hearing and communication skills that will allow them to succeed at school and improve their chances of breaking the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. It will improve the lives of Aboriginal children and work towards closing the gap through better hearing, speech and language skills before and during the school years which will increase their literacy abilities, academic success and lifelong employment opportunities. Increasing the employment opportunities of Aboriginal people will help decrease intergenerational dependency on social welfare and decrease some of the burden on the Australian economy.
5. Are there any reports or findings that support your nomination for the suggested topic? (200 word maximum): 
Speech and language development form the basis for reading and academic learning. All children with speech and language impairments are at risk for reading difficulties, learning impairments and behaviour disorders (Catts, Fey & Tomblin, 2002; Tomblin, Records, Buckwalter, Zhang, Smith & O‟Brien, 1997). Approximately 30–77% of non-Aboriginal children diagnosed with a speech sound disorder before school age, struggle to develop adequate reading skills in the early school years (Bird, Bishop, & Freeman, 1995; Nathan, Stackhouse, Goulandris, & Snowling, 2004).Good language skills also contribute to self esteem and mental health (Clegg, Hollis, Mawhood & Rutter, 2005; Hogan, Shipley, Strazdins, Purcell & Baker, 2011). The impact of childhood speech and language impairments, therefore, often continue into adulthood, decreasing employment opportunities (Conti-Ramsden, Durkin, Smikin & Knox, 2009; Whitehouse, Line, Watt & Bishop 2009) and increasing the risk of anti-social behaviour (Bor, McGee & Fagan, 2004) and incarceration. In fact, Snow and Powell (2011) documented that 46 of 100 Australian young incarcerated offenders were language impaired. The importance of appropriate interventions to improve the speech and language skills of Aboriginal children is clear. There is little outcome data on the impact of hearing interventions and no published speech pathology intervention outcome data for Aboriginal children. Law, Garrett and Nye‟s (2010) and Broomfield and Dodd’s (2011) systematic reviews shows the overall positive effect of speech and language therapy interventions for non-indigenous children. A TCR is needed to providing efficacy data in how to best provide evidence-based, culturally appropriate and respectful speech pathology services. It would also allow improvement in the lives of Aboriginal children and work towards closing the gap through better speech and language skills before and during the school years which will increase reading abilities, academic success and lifelong employment opportunities.

Page reviewed: 30 August, 2018