A multi-centre open-label randomised non-inferiority trial comparing watchful waiting to antibiotic treatment for acute otitis media without perforation in low-risk urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (the WATCH trial): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial
Abbott et al. Trials
A multi-centre open-label randomised non- inferiority trial comparing watchful waiting to antibiotic treatment for acute otitis media without perforation in low-risk urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (the WATCH trial): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial
Penelope Abbott 0
Hasantha Gunasekera 2
Amanda Jane Leach 1
Deborah Askew 6 7
Robyn Walsh 0
Kelvin Kong 5
Federico Girosi 0
Chelsea Bond 4
Peter Morris 1
Sanja Lujic 0 9
Wendy Hu 0
Tim Usherwood 8
Sissy Tyson 6
Geoffrey Spurling 6 7
Markeeta Douglas 3
Kira Schubert 3
Shavaun Chapman 11
Nadeem Siddiqui 11
Reeion Murray 11
Keitha Rabbitt 12
Bobby Porykali 12
Cheryl Woodall 10
Tina Newman 10
Jennifer Reath 0
0 School of Medicine, Western Sydney University , Sydney, NSW , Australia
1 Menzies School of Health Research , Darwin, NT , Australia
2 University of Sydney , Sydney, NSW , Australia
3 Awabakal Aboriginal Primary Health Care Centre , Newcastle, NSW , Australia
4 Indigenous Studies Research Network, Queensland University of Technology , Brisbane, QLD , Australia
5 University of Newcastle , Newcastle, NSW , Australia
6 Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care (Inala Indigenous Health Service), Queensland Health , Brisbane, QLD , Australia
7 Discipline of General Practice, University of Queensland , Brisbane, QLD , Australia
8 Sydney Medical School Westmead, University of Sydney , Sydney, NSW , Australia
9 Centre for Big Data Research in Health, University of NSW , Sydney, NSW , Australia
10 Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation , Sydney, NSW , Australia
11 Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service , Canberra, ACT , Australia
12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Services , Brisbane, QLD , Australia
Background: Treatment guidelines recommend watchful waiting for children older than 2 years with acute otitis media (AOM) without perforation, unless they are at high risk of complications. The high prevalence of chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities leads these children to be classified as high risk. Urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are at lower risk of complications, but evidence to support the subsequent recommendation for watchful waiting in this population is lacking. Methods/Design: This non-inferiority multi-centre randomised controlled trial will determine whether watchful waiting is non-inferior to immediate antibiotics for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with AOM without perforation. Children aged 2 − 16 years with AOM who are considered at low risk for complications will be recruited from six participating urban primary health care services across Australia. We will obtain informed consent from each participant or their guardian. The primary outcome is clinical resolution on day 7 (no pain, no fever of at least 38 °C, no bulging eardrum and no complications of AOM such as perforation or mastoiditis) as assessed by general practitioners or nurse practitioners. Participants and outcome assessors will not be blinded to treatment. With a sample size of 198 children in each arm, we have 80 % power to detect a non-inferiority margin of up to 10 % at a significance level of 5 %, assuming clinical improvement of at least 80 % in both groups. Allowing for a 20 % dropout rate, we aim to recruit 495 children. We will analyse both by intention-to-treat and per protocol. We will assess the cost- effectiveness of watchful waiting compared to immediate antibiotic prescription. We will also report on the implementation of the trial from the perspectives of parents/carers, health professionals and researchers. (Continued on next page)
(Continued from previous page)
Discussion: The trial will provide evidence for the safety and effectiveness of watchful waiting for the management
of AOM in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in urban settings who are considered to be at low
risk of complications.
Trial registration: The trial is registered with Australia New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12613001068752).
Date of registration: 24 September 2013.
Acute otitis media (AOM) is a common reason for
childhood presentation to health services and for
prescription of antibiotics [
] and is commonly managed in
general practice in Australia [
]. AOM creates a large
health and cost burden for individuals and communities
]. Otitis media (OM) refers to inflammation of the
middle ear space, which is characterised by the presence
of middle ear effusion and causes illness and hearing loss
. In AOM there are also symptoms and signs of acute
]. Serious complications of AOM, such as
chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) (persistent ear
discharge through a perforation in the eardrum) and
mastoiditis, are rare in developed countries, where most
cases of AOM resolve spontaneously [
Antibiotics are not recommended for most children in
developed countries with AOM due to limited clinical
] and the personal and public health risks of
antibiotic resistance [
]. Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander children who live in remote communities,
where the incidence of AOM and prevalence of CSOM
are high, are among those who are to expected benefit
from antibiotic treatment for AOM [
there is little evidence for the appropriate management
of AOM in the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander children who live in urban settings and who are
considered to be at lower risk of complications.
Diagnosis and management of AOM
The particular combination of symptoms and signs of
acute infection providing the most reliable diagnosis of
AOM is debated. However, middle ear effusion
accompanied by ear pain or bulging of the tympanic membrane is
likely to be AOM [
High-level evidence from studies in developed
countries shows that immediate antibiotic treatment confers
only a modestly decreased duration of pain and fever at
the cost of increased side effects [
treatment guidelines [
] currently recommend
watchful waiting (initial observation and symptomatic
treatment) and avoidance of immediate antibiotic
treatment of AOM in children older than 2 years of age who
are at low risk of complications. In this approach, carers
are advised that children with persistent symptoms need
clinical reassessment, at which point the clinician will
review the need for antibiotics.
OM and AOM management in urban Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander children
Data on the burden of OM in Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander children living in urban areas are sparse.
Moderate to severe hearing loss was present in 32 % of
47 Aboriginal children and 7 % of 120 non-Aboriginal
children aged 12 months or more in a study undertaken
in an urban area of Western Australia [
]. In the most
recent Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Health Survey, 12 % of children under 14 years were
reported to have ear or hearing problems, and this was
the same in remote and non-remote areas [
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were significantly
more likely than non-Indigenous children to be reported
to have ear or hearing problems (rate ratio 1.3) [
many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
already experience marked disadvantage compared to
other Australians, effective treatment of ear disease and
prevention of hearing impairment in Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander children is vital to maximise health
and learning outcomes [
Recently, the recommended approach to the
management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
with AOM has changed. The 2001 Australian guidelines
] recommended immediate antibiotics for all Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander children with AOM. However,
the 2010 guidelines [
] recommend watchful waiting for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at low risk of
CSOM. In these guidelines, Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander children are classified as low risk if they are older
than 2 years of age, do not have eardrum perforation or
history of perforation and do not live in geographical areas
with a high incidence of CSOM (defined as greater than
4 %), such as is consistently seen in remote Australia. As
approximately 75 % of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
children live in urban and non-remote regional
], where CSOM rates are likely to be less than 2 %
], this advice presents an important change in clinical
Pilot work undertaken prior to commencement of the study
An obstacle to evidence-based management of OM in
primary care is lack of diagnostic accuracy [
of AOM requires detection of middle ear effusion, which
can only be reliably made using tympanometry or
pneumatic otoscopy. However, both of these diagnostic aids are
greatly underutilised by general practitioners (GPs),
including in Aboriginal Medical Services . Prior to the
development of the WATCH study design, we undertook
preliminary research concerning diagnosis of OM in the
general practice setting [
]. We determined that
tympanometry was likely to be a more acceptable diagnostic
technique than pneumatic otoscopy to aid GP diagnosis in
AOM and incorporated this into the study design. We also
undertook a retrospective medical record review in two
participating services prior to commencement of the study to
determine the numbers of children seen with AOM at these
sites. This information was used to determine the study
design and the duration required to meet recruitment targets.
The WATCH trial aims to determine whether watchful
waiting is non-inferior to immediate antibiotic treatment in
achieving clinical resolution of AOM without complications
in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at low risk
of complications who reside in urban areas. In addition to
providing information to guide clinical management of
AOM, we will investigate the relative costs and acceptability
of the two treatment approaches to parents/carers and
health care providers, and their views and experiences of
the research processes.
To determine whether watchful waiting is non-inferior to
immediate antibiotic treatment in achieving clinical
resolution of AOM without perforation at day 7 in urban
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children who are
at low risk of CSOM.
1. To determine whether watchful waiting is non-inferior
to immediate antibiotic treatment in regards to symptom
resolution, resolution of otoscopic signs, complication
rates, and parent/carer satisfaction with treatment
2. To assess the cost-effectiveness of watchful waiting
compared to immediate antibiotic prescription
3. To explore the acceptability of the two treatment
arms and the experience of taking part in and
conducting the trial, from the perspectives of
parents/carers, health professionals and researchers,
and to use this information to assist in the
interpretation and translation of the findings
We are using a non-inferiority, open-label, randomised
controlled trial (RCT) design. Non-inferiority studies
seek to determine if a new treatment is no worse than a
reference treatment by a predetermined margin. The
new treatment is recommended if it is similar or better
than the previous treatment, usually on the premise that
the new treatment has other advantages over the reference
]. Children will be randomised to watchful
waiting or immediate antibiotic therapy, stratified by study
site and age of child (2 − 6 years and 7 − 16 years), using
the National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC)
Clinical Trial Centre Interactive Voice Response System
(IVRS). It is not possible to blind the patient or treating
staff. Outcome measurements will be verified by blinded
assessment of tympanometry and video-pneumatic
otoscopy (VO) data by an otolaryngologist and analysis
will be blinded.
For practical reasons, the participating sites will commence
staggered recruitment, commencing in two sites per block,
6 months apart. We will undertake cost-effectiveness analysis
and a qualitative study in conjunction with the RCT as an
integral part of the study design, with planning for both
having commenced at inception [
]. A Data Safety
Monitoring Board will oversee the conduct of the trial.
The study is a multi-centre study with six participating
sites, all of which are in urban settings, including: five
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
(ACCHSs); and one Indigenous Health Service. ACCHS
are services dedicated to health care delivery for Aboriginal
Australians and are run by the local Aboriginal
communities for the local Aboriginal community and are also known
as Aboriginal Medical Services. The Indigenous Health
Service has different governance to the ACCHSs, being a state
government-supported general practice, which provides
primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples. For the purposes of this publication the ACCHSs
and the Indigenous Health Service are collectively referred
to as health services. The health services are in three states
in eastern Australia; two in Queensland (Brisbane), three in
New South Wales (Newcastle and Sydney) and one in the
Australian Capital Territory (Canberra).
Participants will be recruited from the clients
attending the health services. We will obtain informed consent
from each participant or their guardian.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community ethical consultation and ethical approval
We are committed to conducting this research within the
ethical framework recommended by the National Health
and Medical Research Council’s Values and Ethics –
Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Health Research [
] and the Aboriginal
Health and Medical Research Council’s key principles for
ethical research [
]. We obtained approval from the
Boards of the ACCHSs and the Inala Community Jury
for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research
(a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
from the Inala community who guide all research
conducted by the service) [
This study has been approved by the following ethics
Working with health services and communities
A strong tenet of this research is to work in a culturally
safe and productive way with communities and health
services, respecting their collaboration and providing
them with adequate resourcing. We seek to build capacity
both in terms of research skills and knowledge and skills in
diagnosis and management of ear disease in these
communities and health services. Services have nominated their
own associate investigators (AIs) and we have provided
funding for research officers (ROs) to be employed in each
service. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ROs help to
ensure the research is locally culturally appropriate.
Community research reference groups nominated by each health
service have been funded and supported to provide ongoing
community input to the research.
We are training all ROs and health service staff and
providing support for professional development of the
RO at each site. AIs and ROs are supported to attend
annual investigator meetings. Training aims include
promoting accurate diagnosis of AOM; the use of
tympanometry and VO; evidence-based management of AOM;
research skills and culturally appropriate research. The
results of all aspects of the trial will be disseminated in
each of the communities with which we are working.
1. Watchful waiting: no immediate provision of
antibiotic therapy at the time of enrolment.
Subsequent treatment, including antibiotic
prescription, is at the discretion of the treating
2. Antibiotic group: immediate prescription of
antibiotic therapy (choice of antibiotic
recommended to be based on Australian
prescribing guidelines [
Relevant concomitant care and interventions
Any concomitant care or intervention is permissible at
the discretion of the treating physician and parent/carer.
We will record analgesia and other symptom relief and
1. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child
(as documented by the health service)
2. Aged 2 years to 16 years (inclusive)
3. Not previously enrolled in the study
4. Current AOM without perforation diagnosed by the
treating physician based on a Type B tympanogram
and at least one of the following:
bulging of the eardrum on otoscopy,
ear pain (or irritability in 2 to 3 year-olds)
1. The child has been taking any antibiotic in the
previous 4 days
2. At high risk of CSOM, as defined by residing in a
geographic area known to have prevalence of CSOM
greater than 4 %
3. A grommet in situ, or a current or past history of
tympanic membrane perforation
4. A condition which increases the risk of complications
(including immunosuppression, genetic or
chromosomal abnormality, cleft palate or mid-face
abnormalities such as seen in Down syndrome)
5. Systemic features necessitating antibiotic treatment
(including septicaemia, meningitis, pneumonia, or
urinary tract infection)
Proportion of children with clinical resolution of
AOM, defined as all of the following: no pain, fever
not higher than 38 °C, no bulging eardrum and no
complications of OM (no perforation or mastoiditis)
1. GP or nurse practitioner clinical examination on day
7 (acceptable range days 5 − 10)
2. Where 1. is not available, GP or nurse practitioner
assessment of parental report and review of VO
(recorded by trained RO), and no fever of at least
1. Proportion of children with resolution of signs of
AOM, through blinded otolaryngologist assessment
of VO images and tympanometry taken at days 0
and 7* by a trained RO
2. Proportion of children with middle ear effusion,
perforation and CSOM at week 7*, assessed by an
independent blinded observer (otolaryngologist)
reviewing VO and tympanometry data
3. Proportion of children with new antibiotic
prescriptions (where ‘new’ is any antibiotic
prescription provided after the recruitment
consultation) for an index case of AOM assessed by
review of medical record and by parent/carer report
4. Parent/carer-reported time to resolution of AOM
symptoms assessed by parent/carer symptom report
at days 3*, 7* and 14*, including the AOM Faces
5. Usage of analgesia for AOM symptom relief assessed
by parent/carer report
6. Parent/carer satisfaction with AOM treatment
assessed by parent/carer report using rating scale
(*acceptable ranges: days 2 − 4; days 5 − 10; days 11 − 17;
weeks 6 − 8)
Processes of enrolment and subsequent assessments
The enrolment processes are shown in Fig 1. Children
will undergo subsequent assessments via phone or
face-to-face at days 3, 7, and 14 and week 7.
Medicallytrained chief investigators will review participant medical
records for any additional information relating to ear
disease and/or its treatment which occurred in the
3 months following recruitment. Details of data
collection at each of the scheduled assessment times are
summarised in Table 1.
Day 3 Day 7 Day 14 Week 7 3 months
(Days 2 − 4) (Days 5 − 10) (Days 11 − -17) (Weeks (no
6 − 8) window)
Review Parent/Carer/Child Diary -symptom AMS Health service
assessment using AOM-Faces Scale RO/AMS AI
Medical record review
Medical record reviewer
AI associate investigator, AMS Aboriginal Medical Service, GP general practitioner, NP nurse practitioner, RO research officer
aBracketed day/week numbers in the Post-randomisation column above represent acceptable time ranges.
Data collection and data management
Data collected during each study visit will be recorded
using standardised case report forms (CRFs). Data from
paper CRFs will be entered into an electronic database by
the ROs at each of the participating sites, ideally within
2 weeks of data collection. Electronic CRFs will have
participant identifying details removed and be labelled with
coded identifiers including randomisation number. Initially,
10 % of paper CRFs will be crossed checked against
electronic CRFs for accuracy by a Western Sydney University
RO, with a more intensive review conducted as indicated.
Data discrepancies will be discussed with and amended by
the site accordingly. Randomisation allocation is generated
and stored separately from the electronic database and will
only be forwarded to the study statistician upon request.
Sample size and power
With 198 children in each arm of the study, the study will
have 80 % power to detect a non-inferiority margin of up to
10 % at a significance level of 5 %, assuming a clinical
improvement rate of at least 80 % in both study groups
]. Allowing for a dropout rate of up to 20 % at days
5 − 10, the total sample size required is 495 children.
The primary outcome measure is clinical resolution on
day 7 as defined above. We will compare the proportion of
children meeting the definition of clinical resolution using
intention-to-treat analysis (ITT), as well as per-protocol
analysis, as non-inferiority trials that use only ITT can be
biased towards finding non-inferiority [
perprotocol population will consist of all randomised patients
who have adhered to the allocated treatment, were not lost
to follow-up, and who have no major protocol deviations.
All participants with complete outcome information at
day 7 will be included. For protocol deviations where
participant data are available, these will be analysed and
the impact of their inclusion assessed and reported.
Sensitivity analyses will describe the impact of the
following alternative assumptions: (1) missing = clinical
failure; (2) missing = clinical success; (3) extrapolation from
days 2 − 4 telephone interview; (4) best case for watchful
waiting; and (5) worst case for watchful waiting. A secondary
per-protocol analysis (accounting for non-adherence and
change in treatment) will be done to describe any short-term
benefits and harms associated with antibiotic use.
Non-inferiority of watchful waiting compared with
antibiotic treatment will be accepted if the lower bound
of the 95 % CI around the estimated difference in the
primary endpoint rates does not exceed 10 %.
Data analysis will include analysis using Fisher’s exact and
Chi-square tests for categorical outcomes, and parametric
and non-parametric tests for continuous measures, as
required. The difference in the primary endpoint between
the two groups will be expressed as a risk difference. Where
appropriate, odds ratios (ORs) will be calculated and will
include both unadjusted (crude) and adjusted ORs.
Adjusted ORs will be obtained using multivariable logistic
regression, adjusting for baseline covariates. Time to
resolution of AOM symptoms will be modelled using a
multilevel Cox (proportional hazards) regression analysis
and graphically displayed using Kaplan-Meier curves.
Secondary analyses by stratification factors (recruitment
site and age) will be carried out, numbers permitting.
Cost-effectiveness data collection and analysis
As a secondary outcome measure, we will assess the
costeffectiveness of watchful waiting compared to immediate
antibiotic prescription, as measured through the
incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER). The ICER is defined as:
}ICER} ¼ ðC2 −C1 Þ= Q2 −Q1
where Ci and Qi denote costs and Quality-adjusted Life
Years (QALYs) [
] associated with the treatment received
in trial arm i, and i is 1 for antibiotic treatment and 2 for
Costs of treatment
Costs of treatment including medication costs, health
service usage and non-medical costs will be computed
for events related to AOM and its treatment. This
information will be collected as follows:
1. Medication costs will be calculated using
parent/carerreported antibiotic/analgesia usage collected in the CRFs
2. Health service usage data will be collected mostly in
the CRFs, but also through medical record review.
The medical record data will be reviewed within two
distinct time periods: 0 to 7 weeks post recruitment
and 7 weeks to 3 months post recruitment. Medical
record data relating to weeks 0 to 7 will be compared
with CRF data to check and enhance reliability of
health service usage information. The medical record
data from week 7 to 3 months will allow collection
of later information, if any, relating to health service
utilisation, such as later follow-up appointments
relating to the ear disease or its complications. We will
estimate costs of health service utilisation and
complications by applying publicly available price factors to
utilisation figures. Complications requiring a hospital
admission will be priced using the National Public
Cost Weight Tables [
]. Complications requiring a
visit to a medical practitioner will be priced according
to item numbers within the Australian universal health
benefit scheme, Medicare
3. Non-medical costs will be calculated from parent/
carer data collected in the CRF. We will use a
societal point of view and, therefore, include
non-medical costs, both tangible and intangible,
borne by the carers of the child. The main
non-medical tangible cost is transportation to and
from the GP or any other health care provider.
The main non-medical non-tangible cost is time
spent by parents/carers in activities related to the
AOM or its treatment, which take them away from
their usual role or activities. The parent/carer
estimate of the time spent on such activities will
be converted into a monetary figure using standard
guidelines for wages and productivity [
Quality-adjusted Life Years (QALYs)
We will calculate QALYs using CRF data from parent/
carers. The CRF data will be used to measure the time
a child spends in different health states associated
with both the natural course of the disease (mostly
characterised by pain), and complications (such as
rash or gastrointestinal problems). Each health state
will be assigned a utility value (that measures the
degree of preference society places on that health state)
using QALY weights found in the medical literature,
since a novel evaluation of preferences is not in the
scope of this trial. QALYs will then be computed by
combining the information about the time spent in the
different health states with the QALY weights.
Missing cost-effectiveness data will be managed through
the use of imputation, rather than deleting observations.
Sensitivity analysis is particularly important, since QALY
weights currently available are not specific to the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Sensitivity
analysis will be performed using both one-way and multi-way
Monte Carlo simulations, and will allow us to estimate
how much the uncertainty regarding QALY estimates
contributes to the overall results. In both cases the key output
is the set of conditions under which the ICER remains in
an acceptable range, in order for watchful waiting to be
Qualitative data collection and analysis
We will undertake a qualitative study using thematic
analysis of individual and group interviews to examine
parents’/carers’, health professionals’ and researchers’
experiences of the trial and views on the different
treatment approaches to AOM. Semi-structured interviews
will be undertaken with consenting health care providers
(Aboriginal health workers, nurses, GPs, allied health
providers) and parent/carers in selected sites, including
parent/carers who declined to take part in the RCT.
Interview participants will be selected using a purposive
sampling strategy for maximal variation of age, gender,
study experiences and views [
]. Interviews will also be
undertaken with consenting research officers and the
community reference groups in each site. The interviews
will be taped, transcribed, de-identified and coded.
Transcripts will be coded by two members of the research
team with contrasting disciplinary perspectives, and any
differences in interpretation resolved by discussion, and
a thematic analysis undertaken [
The WATCH trial will answer the important clinical
question: whether watchful waiting is (or is not) inferior to
immediate antibiotic therapy for urban Aboriginal children
with AOM who are at low risk of complications. We will
assess the cost-effectiveness of the two approaches and
qualitatively examine the acceptability of the alternate
approaches to management of AOM to parents and carers,
and health care providers. Furthermore, we will examine
experiences of the trial process itself in order to inform
future RCT studies in Aboriginal health settings.
This trial will make an important contribution to the
evidence base for the safe management of AOM in
urban Aboriginal children. Australian guidelines for the
management of AOM have recently been updated [
and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living
in urban settings are no longer classified as high risk for
complications of AOM, and thus health care providers
are advised they should be treated with watchful waiting.
This requires a change in clinical practice. The expert
consensus guideline advice has been extrapolated from
studies in low-risk, developed countries internationally.
There have been no studies into the relative effectiveness
of a watchful waiting approach for urban Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander children, nor of attitudes of carers
and health care providers to this approach.
Research undertaken with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people must have net benefits for communities,
incorporate community research control, be conducted
in a manner sensitive to the cultural principles of
Aboriginal society, be appropriately resourced and enhance
the skills and knowledge of the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people, communities and organisations
that are participating in the project [
]. This study has
been designed with awareness and commitment to these
guiding principles and to the flexibility required to
undertake a randomised controlled trial in Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander health settings.
Ear health is a core priority for Aboriginal
communities and the health care providers who work with those
communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people experience marked disadvantage compared to
other Australians [
] and effective treatment of ear
disease and prevention of hearing impairment in
Aboriginal children is vital to maximise health and learning
]. The ultimate goal of this research is to
ensure appropriate treatment of acute infections of the
middle ear so as to maintain the ear health of Aboriginal
children and decrease their risk of developing chronic
The trial is registered with the Australia New Zealand
Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12613001068752).
Contracts have been signed with six participating health
services, which were selected based on service size and
geographic location. Four ACCHSs declined to participate
in the trial when approached for potential participation.
Training and orientation to the study has been undertaken
in all sites and recruitment has commenced in five sites.
There was a protocol change made after one child was
recruited to the study. This comprised:
(1)Revision of the diagnostic criteria of AOM to comprise
‘ear pain or irritability’ in a child aged 2 to 3 years)
(2)Amendment to the primary outcome to allow the
GP to assess the outcome (resolution of AOM)
through assessment of parental report and review of
VO- and RO-collected temperature if the child had
not come in to see the GP
(3)Removal of a requirement for tympanometry and
VO at the day-3 and day-14 data collection points,
allowing data to be collected by telephone rather
Another protocol change to eligibility inclusion criteria
was made after 36 children were recruited to the study,
permitting the eligibility diagnosis of AOM without
perforation and the day-7 primary outcome assessment by
the treating nurse practitioner as well as the GP. This
was deemed necessary as it was the normal practice in
one of the later recruiting sites for diagnosis and
treatment of AOM to be determined by credentialed nurse
practitioners at the health service.
ACCHS: Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services; AI: associate
investigator; AMS: Aboriginal Medical Service; ANOVA: analysis of variance;
AOM: acute otitis media; CRF: case report form; CSOM: chronic suppurative
otitis media; GP: general practitioner; ICER: incremental cost-effectiveness
ratio; NP: nurse practitioner; OM: otitis media; QALYs: Quality-adjusted life
Years; RCT: randomised controlled trial; RO: research officer; VO:
videopneumatic otoscopy; WATCH: Watchful waiting for Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Children with acute otitis media: the WATCH trial.
PA, DA, KK, TU, GS, MD, SC, NS, RM, KR, CW, TN and JR work at participating
study sites, in dual roles as researchers and clinicians or managers.
PA contributed to the concept and design of the study and prepared the
initial draft of the manuscript. JR led the research and contributed to the
concept and design of the study and the manuscript development. HG,
AJL, DA, RW, KK, FG, CB, PM, SL, WH and TU contributed to the concept and
design of the study and the manuscript development. ST, GS, MD, KS, SC, NS,
RM, KR, BP, CW and TN contributed to the design of the study. All authors
read and approved the final manuscript.
We acknowledge the support of the boards, management and staff of the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Services Brisbane,
Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney, Awabakal Primary Health Care
Centre, Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, and the Winnunga Nimmityjah
Aboriginal Medical Service. We also acknowledge the support of the Inala
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Jury for Health Research and
the management and staff of the Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence
in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care. AJL is funded by
NHMRC Research Fellowship 1020561. This work is supported by a National
Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant (1046266).
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