Objective To determine the health impact of swimming pools built with the aim of improving quality of life and reducing high rates of pyoderma and otitis media.
Design Intervention study assessing prevalence of ear disease and skin infections before and at six monthly intervals after opening of swimming pools.
Setting Two remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.
Participants 84 boys and 78 girls aged < 17 years.
Main outcome measures Changes in prevalence and severity of pyoderma and perforation of tympanic membranes with or without otorrhoea over 18 months after opening of pools.
Results In community A, 61 children were seen before the pool was opened, and 41, 46, and 33 children were seen at the second, third, and fourth surveys. Equivalent figures for community B were 60, 35, 39, and 45. Prevalence of pyoderma declined significantly from 62% to 18% in community A and from 70% to 20% in community B during the 18 months after the pools opened. Over the same period, prevalence of severe pyoderma fell from 30% to 15% in community A and from 48% to 0% in community B. Prevalence of perforations of the tympanic membrane fell from 32% in both communities to 13% in community A and 18% in community B. School attendance improved in community A.
Conclusion Swimming pools in remote communities were associated with reduction in prevalence of pyoderma and tympanic membrane perforations, which could result in long term benefits through reduction in chronic disease burden and improved educational and social outcomes.