Chronic middle ear disease is an invisible condition posing a serious health risk throughout New Zealand.
Repeated episodes of the disease can result in hearing loss, language delay, difficulties in literacy and lowered school achievement. Particular communities – including children in the Hutt Valley – are affected severely by the disease, making effective prevention, detection and intervention significant public health challenges.
In 2011, Emma Collins, now an Otago Polytechnic Lecturer in Nursing, strengthened the case for greater resourcing for ear nurse specialists and clinics to reach at-risk children. Collins analysed cases of childhood middle ear disease as part of her Master’s dissertation: “We ran a mobile community ear clinic – basically a converted campervan – for children in the Hutt Valley.”
The research investigated the difficulty of reaching “marginalised populations” effectively. “We stopped at places where there were children who had failed hearing tests at school. We also visited areas with larger Māori and Pacific Islands populations, because we know that children of these ethnicities are more prone to ear disease.”
Collins She hopes that her enthusiasm for lifelong learning will inspire students to consider a career in research alongside daily nursing practice. “The level of resources at Otago Polytechnic is exceptional for research. The potential is absolutely there, and it’s up to the individual to make it happen.”
Collins, E. & Ram, F. (2011) Rates of Ear Disease in Children Visiting a Mobile Community Ear Clinic in New Zealand—Two-Year Study of Over 2,000 Children. Asia Pacific Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing, Volume 14, Number 2, 119 –128.