UWA and Telethon Making a Difference for Child Health

29 Sep 2021 | 3 mins

Telethon and UWA have a lot in common. Both institutions, established in WA, channel the goodwill and philanthropy of the community to enable life-changing research which is improving the lives and health outcomes of children locally and globally. 

Channel 7 Telethon Trust grants are funding world-first research at UWA and there will be the opportunity to encounter first-hand some of this research at the forthcoming 2021 Telethon Family Festival on 17 October. 

Award-winning UWA researchers, Professor Wendy Erber and Associate Professor Kathy Fuller, have been developing improved testing techniques for childhood leukaemia. Children with chronic myeloid leukaemia may require lifelong medication. Medication that whilst providing good disease control affects their growth, development and fertility. Supported by Telethon, this team has invented a new test to monitor the leukaemia in order to confidently determine, for the first time, whether the medication can be safely stopped during remission.

Celebrating 10 years of Telethon funding, Thriving in Motion Afterschool program will be back at the Family Festival running fun exercise activities for kids. Specialised instructors at Thriving provide tailored and positive exercise experiences to WA young people impacted by complex physical and/or mental health conditions that limit their ability to participate in community or school sport. 

"Without Telethon’s amazing support over the last ten years, Thriving would not have been able to have fulfilled this vital need within the community or have reached thousands of children and families. Their lives have been so positively impacted by unleashing the power of exercise"

Founding Director and Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Dr Bonnie Furzer

Telethon Kids Institute and UWA Researcher, Professor Jane Pillow, will also be showcasing her research at the Telethon Family Festival. Professor Pillow has developed a world-first treatment for premature babies to reduce the risk of damage to fragile lungs. Many premature babies require respiratory support and Professor Pillow’s latest research investigates use of a nebulised surfactant spray to reduce the need for intubation. Early trials are indicating that this innovative approach also reduces the need for expensive equipment and could therefore be used in poorer developing countries to save lives and improve health outcomes for premature babies globally. 

School-age children will have the chance to share their ideas and participate in a lucky dip at the Thoughtful Schools activation space. The Thoughtful Schools Program, led by Dr Karen Martin gives vulnerable children a voice about how schools can best respond to their stress and adversity and support their wellbeing. Never before has there been such an urgent need to respond to stress, trauma and adversity faced by children and families. This innovative research explores children’s perspectives about how schools can best respond and embeds findings into a toolkit to help schools provide better support. 

Dr Bonnie Furzer and the Thriving teamImage:Dr Bonnie Furzer and the Thriving team. Photo: Viva Photography.

Telethon and UWA’s collaboration with Lions Eye Institute have also enabled the extension of the Lions Outback Vision’s North-West Hub in Broome, to include a paediatric ophthalmology service. The hub is currently equipped to provide an eye health outreach service for the adults in the Kimberley and Pilbara. With Telethon funding, it will be extended to include specialised equipment to cater for children in the North-West region. UWA and Oxford-trained Associate Professor Angus Turner leads the project as the Director of Lions Outback Vision, which delivers specialist services to remote and Indigenous communities in regional WA.

Other research funded through Telethon 2020 includes breastfeeding focused research led by Professor Donna Geddes which identifies mothers at risk of low milk production, measures actual production and investigates interventions to improve production, breastfeeding duration and babies’ health. UWA and Lions Eye Institute researcher Dr Livia dos Santos Carvalho’s groundbreaking research in gene therapy treatment for vision loss caused by Usher syndrome will in the future help children afflicted by this rare disease. For children like 2020 Little Telethon Star, Eamon Doak who faces losing his eyesight by the time he is in his teens, Telethon has been a generous and loyal supporter of the Lions Eye Institute’s work to treat and prevent vision threatening diseases.

Several UWA child health focused research projects are now under consideration for 2021 Channel 7 Telethon Trust grants, pending the inspiring generosity that we hope to see over the Telethon weekend.

UWA’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Tim Colmer said, “All our researchers are very grateful to the community for their support of Telethon and take seriously their responsibility to put research into action to make a difference for the children of WA. 

“Thank you to Channel 7 Telethon Trustees for including UWA research in this extraordinary opportunity”.

UWA is now seeking to take our projects to the next stage and invites our community to contact UWA’s philanthropy team via development@uwa.edu.au.

 

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