DVD cover of The Magic Glasses, which aims to improve child health in China and the Philippines
DVD cover of The Magic Glasses, which aims to improve child health in China and the Philippines
25 October 2012

Almost $1.5 million in funding has been awarded to researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ) who are working to reduce one of the world’s most common chronic infections.

Dr Darren Gray, from UQ’s School of Population Health (SPH), was awarded the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding, to continue his team’s research into reducing infection by soil-transmitted helminths (STH) in children in China and the Philippines.

More than a third of the world’s population is infected with STH, which are the most widespread and disabling chronic infections globally. If untreated in children, STH infection can cause anaemia, malnutrition, stunted growth, reduced fitness and cognitive delays.

STH infection is usually treated with deworming medication although this does not prevent re-infection and, after treatment is stopped, reinfection usually occurs within 6-18 months.

Dr Gray’s project uses a video-based health educational package, developed by the project team, to influence the behaviour of schoolchildren in a way conducive to the prevention of parasitic worm infections.

A cartoon video – The Magic Glasses – explains how children become infected with STHs and encourages them to practise good hygiene, wash their hands and wear shoes.

The video is reinforced with a brochure and an essay and drawing competition.

Dr Gray said the project aimed to find out whether using the package in schools would increase students’ knowledge of the worms and change their hygiene behaviour, thus preventing infections in children in diverse ethnic and endemic settings.

“We will assess the impact of the package in different geographical areas with a high prevalence of infection and different ethnic groups,” he said.

“This will provide an evidence base for translation of the package into public health policy and practice in the Asian region and beyond.”

Dr Gray said the package should be used in conjunction with deworming medication.

The project team includes Professor Gail Williams and Professor Archie Clements from the UQ School of Population Health; Professor Yuesheng Li from the Queensland Institute for Medical Research; Professor Remigio Olveda from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in the Philippines; Dr Peter Steinmann from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute; and Dr Kate Halton from QUT. The project is a collaboration with Professor Don McManus at QIMR and Ms Franziska Bieri, who is a postdoctoral researcher with both QIMR and UQ.

The project’s funding is part of $51 million awarded to The University of Queensland (UQ) by the NHMRC to support researchers and their teams through the early and mid-stages of their careers.

Media: Dr Darren Gray (07 3346 4651, darren.gray@uq.edu.au) or Vanessa Mannix Coppard (042 420 7771, v.mannixcoppard@uq.edu.au)