The Healthy Skin Program was one of five programs of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (2003–2009)

Program goal

To reduce the prevalence of scabies and skin sores in Indigenous communities, and reduce the impact of associated chronic diseases, including rheumatic fever and renal disease.

Program overview

In some communities, up to 70% of Aboriginal children have scabies and/or skin sores. The CRC for Aboriginal Health has supported a long-term program of work, which, with community-based education and health promotion activity, has been able to reduce scabies from 30% to as little as 5% in the short term, with associated dramatic reductions in skin sore severity and prevalence. If skin infections of this sort can be controlled, other diseases linked to scabies – such as rheumatic heart disease and renal disease – may also be reduced.

The CRC for Aboriginal Health takes a holistic approach to health. We know that medical treatments alone are unlikely to provide solutions in Aboriginal health. Poverty, lack of infrastructure such as water and housing, and the strength and wellness of communities as a whole are equally important. The work of the CRC for Aboriginal Health focuses on comprehensive primary healthcare and primary prevention, but also includes biomedical research to understand more about how scabies and skin sores can be treated and controlled. We know that to achieve sustainable change, we must also support capacity development at the community level, as well as among the workforce and in the research world.

For more detail on the framework of the program background, outcomes and operation, go to the Healthy Skin Program Statement or the Healthy Skin Program Summary.

Research priorities

The research in this program built on more than a decade of clinical, biomedical and public health activities. Healthy Skin was identified as a priority in convocation discussions and research proposal assessments. The Program was made up of seven research projects, ranging from bio-medical and clinical research to action research aimed at reducing the prevalence of scabies, skin sores and tinea through a combination of community treatment days, routine screening at health clinics and home visits.

Publications and other information


Healthy Skin Drug Trial featured on ABC Stateline NT, 26 March 2010

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land across Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.