Infectious disease surveillance in remote Aboriginal communities – towards a novel framework

Improving skin health in remote Aboriginal communities through disease surveillance innovation

Infectious disease surveillance is an important tool in improving skin health in remote Aboriginal communities.

To effectively prevent and control infectious diseases, public health professionals need to be able to monitor the occurrence of new infections and changing disease patterns over time. In Australia this role is primarily fulfilled by the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. However, it does not cover many infections known to have an important impact on the health of people living in remote Aboriginal communities.

Skin infections, such as scabies and impetigo, are prime examples of this. They can affect the majority of community children at various times and can lead to serious complications. The lack of an established skin infection surveillance program undermines our ability to effectively address this important Aboriginal health issue.

Skin health is a priority area for Hot North. Several of its partners are currently planning studies that may lead to important reductions in the burden of skin infections in remote Australia. These include trials for new vaccines that may help prevent certain bacterial skin infections from occurring, and an investigation into environmental health interventions that may similarly benefit skin health in remote communities.

The project described here proposes to explore innovative ways of improving the infectious disease surveillance of skin infections in remote communities. It will consider how new and emerging technologies can be used for this purpose and will draw from national and international experiences to develop an innovative framework for disease surveillance in remote communities. Although the initial focus of this project will be on skin infections in support of planned Hot North partner studies, the longer-term goal is to develop a comprehensive surveillance system that will allow public health actors to better address health needs of remote Aboriginal communities. A particular implication of this work is to establish baseline surveillance for the evaluation of upcoming public health interventions, including new group A streptococcal vaccines.

  • Dr David Hendrickx

  • Professor Jonathan Carapetis

  • Telethon Kids Institute

  • 2020

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