A team from the US Centers for Disease Control was impressed with the work of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program following a visit to Ebeye and Majuro earlier this month. Marcus Gaffney, the team leader from CDC’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) section at CDC, and Eric Cahill, a health scientist also with CDC, joined Ray Miner, for the visit to both islands, where they engaged with EHDI Coordinator Chinilla Pedro and hospital staff providing the services. Miner is an audiologist with many years experience who is taking over grant management of the program from Jean Johnson, a University of Hawaii professor who retired earlier this month after overseeing the EHDI program since its inception in RMI in 2011. “The professionals here are committed to making life better for the people of their country,” said Cahill. “You can see it. They’re invested in the kids.” Gaffney explained that CDC funding supports the data side of this service delivery program and has established a working system for tracking and monitoring babies and children with hearing needs. Hospital nurses screen babies born at both hospitals for hearing problems. If the babies don’t pass the screening test, they are then pegged for diagnostic follow up and intervention, as necessary. The goal, said Gaffney, is to have newborns screened within the first month of birth, diagnostics done within three months, and intervention started by six months. “We use data to ensure these benchmarks are being met,” he said. The RMI’s EHDI program was initially funded for six years, 2011-17. Gaffney said it showed a lot of progress in that time and a new three-year funding cycle that started earlier this year aims to “build on this progress and ensure diagnostic and intervention services are provided.” The new grant was a competitive award and the RMI program won one of 49 awards nationally. Although Palau and the FSM had been funded in the previous round, they were not re-funded for the new three-year period, Gaffney said. All services of the program are provided by hospital staff at Majuro and Ebeye, Miner said, with visits by ear specialists from the US as needed. “The data system is important, but it is nothing without the staff,” said Gaffney. “People are the key, and (in RMI) they are so invested, going the extra mile to contact the family to provide services.”
Read more about this in the September 29, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.