University of Western Australia: Two UWA projects awarded WA Child Research Fund grants

Two research groups from The University of Western Australia have received WA Child Research Fund grants to investigate non-invasive treatment for glue-ear and the role of visual mental imagery in maternal vaccination delay and refusal.

Following a panel review a total of $4.3 million was awarded for eighteen child research projects with grants ranging from $150,000 to $250,000.

Dr Matthew Oldakowski and Intan Oldakowska, from the Centre for Medical Research (affiliated with the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research), received funds to research a treatment for glue-ear – an extremely common disease in young children that causes hearing difficulties associated with risk for language and developmental delays.

The EarBuddy device that was developed in collaboration with researchers from Curtin and Stanford University, is a non-invasive medical device disguised as a sippy cup used to treat glue-ear in young children during natural drinking. With this grant, the researchers in collaboration with Earbus Foundation and Paediatric ENT Services will conduct a clinical trial using the EarBuddy device to determine whether it is effective in treating indigenous and non-indigenous children with glue-ear.

“We are very excited to be able to treat WA kids with our EarBuddy device. In particular socially disadvantaged kids who can least afford developmental delay and the associated educational set-backs.”

Dr Matthew Oldakowski
Dr Julie Ji, from UWA’s School of Psychological Science’s Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, is leading a new project with Dr Katie Attwell and Associate Professor Chris Blyth aimed at identifying modifiable cognitive factors influencing maternal vaccination delay and refusal.

The research has a particular focus on emotional imagination-based future thinking in relation to vaccine-related anticipated regret.

“Vaccinating against harmful diseases during pregnancy is critical to the health of both mother and baby, but maternal vaccination delay and refusal caused by vaccine hesitancy is a growing public health threat,” Dr Ji said.

“We know that for those pregnant women who are vaccine hesitant, we cannot easily change their beliefs by simply giving them more facts and statists about the necessity and safety of vaccines.

“We need more psychologically persuasive ways of presenting information that can actually compete with what’s currently in people’s heads that are driving their hesitancy – this project takes the first step into understanding what this looks like.”

The aim of the project is to inform the development of enhanced evidence-based public health promotion practices in the hope of increasing maternal vaccine uptake.

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