An evaluation of a SAFE-style trachoma control program in Central Australia

Dan P Ewald, Gillian V Hall and Christine C Franks
Med J Aust 2003; 178 (2): 65-68.


Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of a trachoma control program in a remote community before and after major environmental health improvements.

Design: Before-and-after cross-sectional design. The control program was in three rounds — each consisting of community census, screening of children < 13 years, health promotion activities and antibiotic treatment. There were two housing and infrastructure surveys.

Interventions: Treatment of affected children and their households with azithromycin at baseline, 7 and 21 months, and health promotions. Housing and sewerage infrastructure improvements were completed at 12 months.

Setting: Large, remote Central Australian Aboriginal community, 1998–2000.

Participants: All community residents.

Main outcome measures: Prevalence of active trachoma among children under 13 years; community population changes; and adequacy of housing facilities for healthy living practices.

Results: The prevalence of trachoma among children was 40% (95% CI, 32%–46%) at baseline, 33% (95% CI, 26%–40%) at 7 months' follow-up and 37% (95% CI, 29%–46%) at 21 months. These proportions were neither clinically nor statistically significantly different. There was a high degree of population mobility over the study period, with only 32% of residents appearing in all three censuses. The proportion of houses with completely adequate facilities increased from 0 to 16%.

Conclusions: Population mobility (both within and between communities), inadequate housing and continued crowding (despite improvements), as well as uncertainty about compliance with antibiotic treatment, are the likely factors contributing to the lack of effect of this trachoma control program. Because of high population mobility, a region-wide approach is needed for effective trachoma control.

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  • Dan P Ewald1
  • Gillian V Hall2
  • Christine C Franks3

  • 1 Centre for Remote Health, Flinders University, Alice Springs, NT.
  • 2 National Centre for Epidemiology for Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.
  • 3 Health and Community Services, Alice Springs, NT.



Paul Cook, Noreen Conlon, Jilly Nakamarra, Connie Wallit Nungarayi, Lottie Robertson, Eddie Robertson, Warren Williams, John Wayne Japiljarri, Philippe Porignoux, Hugh Taylor, Tim Henderson, the Territory Health Service NAHS-EHP steering committee, and Yuendumu Community School. All of the authors were supported by the Master of Applied Epidemiology Program, Australian National University, and/or Territory Health Services, for much of their involvement in this project. This work contributed to the Collaborative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health public health program.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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