A PASSION for indigenous children’s healthcare has seen audiologist and UWA PhD student Chris Brennan-Jones named a finalist in the Premier’s Student Scientist of the Year Award.
Mr Brennan-Jones’s ears pricked up when he heard that ear health in indigenous children was a “massive public health problem requiring urgent attention”, according to the World Health Organisation.
An indigenous ear health program co-ordinated by Mr Brennan-Jones in the East Pilbara region has already led to an overall improvement in health.
The team found that 70 per cent of children in East Pilbara communities had evidence of ear disease in at least one ear.
Having spent the last three years working on his PhD, focused on improving efficiency in hearing healthcare in WA, Mr Brennan-Jones said he was initially shocked at the gap in healthcare for remote communities.
“I did my training in the UK so when I came back, setting up this program was one of my first experiences with indigenous health, so it was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me,” he said.
“That was a real motivator for me throughout my PhD, to make the treatment more effective.”
Mr Brennan-Jones said there was still a long way to go, despite breakthroughs with remote healthcare.
“Hearing affects everything we do from social and emotional development to education and behavioural development,” he said.
“I think the most rewarding part is seeing a child who was withdrawn and not engaged putting their hand up and being able to participate in the classroom after their hearing is fixed.”
Keeping busy with work as a senior paediatric audiologist at Princess Margaret Hospital, research at the UWA Ear Science Institute Australia and work as an honorary research fellow at Telethon Kids Institute, Mr Brennan-Jones said he felt honoured to be recognised.
Mr Brennan-Jones said he and his team were working on putting theory into practice by developing an app to be used in remote communities.
The 2016 Premier’s Science Awards winners will be announced at an August 18 ceremony during National Science Week.