Indigenous eye health, Local, News

Trachoma storybook celebrates WA preventative efforts  

The West Australian Trachoma Storybook

Triumphant tales of community-based trachoma programs in Western Australia have featured in a newly launched storybook, highlighting the importance of primary prevention against the disease that predominantly affects Indigenous communities.

The Public Health Advocacy Institute WA (PHAIWA), an independent group within Curtin University, has published The West Australian Trachoma Storybook. It was launched at an event on 16 June in Geraldton and produced over a 12-month period by the organisation’s #endingtrachoma team, led by Dr Melissa Stoneham.

The West Australian Trachoma Storybook.

With many current trachoma initiatives focusing on screening and medication, Stoneham said there had been less emphasis on primary prevention, particularly community-based health promotion and environmental health initiatives.

This is despite the World Health Organisation’s SAFE trachoma strategy outlining a comprehensive approach to controlling trachoma – a disease still endemic in Australia, making it the only developed nation with this classification.

Stoneham said community promotion and environmental health initiatives align with the ‘F’ (facial cleanliness) and ‘E’ (environmental improvement, particularly improving access to water and sanitation) components of the SAFE strategy.

“Screening is critical but primary prevention is equally important and so the storybook showcases 13 of these initiatives across regional WA,” she said.

Dr Melissa Stoneham.

“Most of the stories focus on healthy home assessment and functional health hardware, the clinical environmental health referral programs and programs to encourage face and hand washing in remote communities – whether through facilitated programs or health messaging.

“The goal is twofold. To highlight the importance of prevention in the trachoma elimination journey and to showcase the brilliant community-based programs that are happening in remote WA communities.”

The recent launch featured six storytellers who were each presented a copy of the book. PHAIWA also produced five short films that correlated with five of the stories which were shown for the first time.

Approximately 35 people attended the launch Ms Jo-Anne Morgan, manager of public health at the WA Country Health Service – which funded the project – the guest speaker.

The West Australian Trachoma Storybook can be accessed here.

Access to clean water and sanitation are considered key elements in the fight against trachoma in Indigenous Australian communities.

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