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National guideline to tackle record rates of skin infection

08 May 2018
(L-R) Glenn Pearson, Dr Asha Bowen and Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt AM, launch The National Healthy Skin Guideline at Science on the Swan Conference

Infectious disease experts from the Telethon Kids Institute, in Perth, Western Australia have spear-headed development of the first National Healthy Skin Guideline to address record rates of skin infections in Australia’s Indigenous communities.

Officially launched by Australia's Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt at the annual Science on the Swan conference, the Guideline will play a vital role in reducing the long-term consequences of painful skin infections like scabies and skin sores.

Dr Asha Bowen from the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute, said that while skin infections can seem minor, they can lead to serious, life-threatening illnesses such as rheumatic heart disease and kidney disease.

“Research shows 45 per cent of Aboriginal children living in remote communities have a skin infection at any one time – half of the kids in a classroom – plus hospitalisation rates for these children are a staggering 15 times greater than non-Aboriginal children,” said Dr Bowen.    

“A big part of the problem is that skin infections have become so common that they are considered ‘normal’, even by health care providers, and are left untreated, allowing germs to spread and infections to become more severe.”

“If we want to close the gap and end the disparity for kids living in remote Indigenous communities, this is something we urgently need to change.”

The National Healthy Skin Guideline was developed in collaboration with leading researchers and clinicians in the skin health field and is designed to help health care providers easily diagnose, treat and prevent skin infections.

“Making skin infections easier to recognise and treat, as well as teaching the prevention message on how to stop the spread of germs and keep skin strong and healthy, will make a huge difference in improving the health of children in remote communities throughout Australia,” said Dr Bowen.

The National Healthy Skin Guideline is available online and includes resources such as photographs and interactive learning tools.

Visit for more information and to download your copy of the National Healthy Skin Guideline.

View the Minister’s official media release here.