Effect of swimming pools on antibiotic use and clinic attendance for infections in two Aboriginal communities in Western Australia

Desiree T Silva, Deborah Lehmann, Mary T Tennant, Peter Jacoby, Helen Wright and Fiona J Stanley
Med J Aust 2008; 188 (10): 594-598.


Objective: To determine whether installation of swimming pools in remote Aboriginal communities reduces infection-related outpatient attendances and prescription of antibiotics.

Design and setting: Swimming pools were opened in Jigalong and Mugarinya, Western Australia, in September 2000. We examined local clinic records to document illnesses occurring in children and adolescents under 17 years of age between 1998 and 2005. In Jigalong, we examined records of those enrolled in an ongoing study evaluating the effect of swimming pools on health. In Mugarinya, we examined clinic records of those residing there permanently.

Main outcome measures: Clinic attendance rates for skin, middle-ear and respiratory tract infections and trauma, and prescription rates for antibiotics were analysed by using a community-based selection method in Jigalong, and a clinic-based selection method in both communities for comparison of the two communities and the two methods.

Results: We examined records of 131 children in Jigalong and 128 children in Mugarinya. After the pools had been installed, clinic attendance rates for skin infections declined by 68% in Jigalong and by up to 77% in Mugarinya. In Jigalong (where the pre-pool prevalence of infections was higher than in Mugarinya), rates of antibiotic prescription declined by 45%, as did clinic attendance for middle-ear infections (61% reduction) and respiratory tract infections (52% reduction).

Conclusion: Swimming pools in remote communities are associated with reduced prevalence of skin infections. Where disease prevalence is high, pools are also associated with reduced rates of antibiotic prescriptions and middle-ear and respiratory tract infections. In communities with resident health staff, examination of clinic records is an efficient method of monitoring the effects of public health interventions on the burden of infectious diseases.

  • Desiree T Silva1
  • Deborah Lehmann1
  • Mary T Tennant1
  • Peter Jacoby1
  • Helen Wright2
  • Fiona J Stanley1

  • 1 Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA.
  • 2 Rural Clinical School of Western Australia, University of Western Australia, Kalgoorlie, WA.



We thank Helen Wright and Jenny Smith for assistance with data extraction from the notes and data entry, and Kirsten Alpers for editorial assistance. We thank the nursing and medical staff at Jigalong and Mugarinya and Kylie Carville for assisting us in obtaining the clinic records. This study was funded by the Western Australian Department of Housing and Works and the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway). Peter Jacoby and Deborah Lehmann are funded through National Health and Medical Council program grant 353514.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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