NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Telehealth gives everyone better healthcare access

feature tile text 'Ongoing Telehealth drives innovation and gives everyone better access to healthcare' image of two Aboriginal men & health professional looking at a screen

Telehealth gives everyone better healthcare access

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has welcomed the extension of Medicare coverage for telehealth consultations for GPs, allied health and specialists to the end of 2021.

To be able to consult with your health care provider by phone or video was an important step in making ongoing healthcare safer for patients during the early days of the pandemic. “This was particularly essential for people with complex and chronic conditions who needed ongoing care.” said the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

Before the introduction of the telehealth items, there was fear and concern in the community about the spread and virulence of the virus, to the extent that many people stopped going to their regular medical appointments and were also not following up on referrals. “It makes good use of the technology we already have, Ms Wells said. “Ongoing, telehealth is about modernising Medicare. “Telehealth supports treatment and management plans and has considerable benefits when combined with face-to-face consultations, Ms Wells said.

“Telehealth also presents the opportunity to accelerate new ways of delivering health care – building on remote monitoring and consultations that are already happening in rural and other health care settings”, said Ms Wells.  “This means that many rural and regional patients receive fairer opportunities to access health care as they can more often avoid costly travel and accommodation in capital cities.

To view the CHF media release in full click here. Image in the feature tile is from The Fred Hollows Foundation website.

female health professional in a pod at Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids setting up a therapy session with a child in a rural school

In a pod at Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids setting up a therapy session with a child in a rural school. Photo: Denise WIltshire. Image source: Partyline magazine.

BBV & STI Strategy Implementation Workshop

The Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee (BBVSS) provides national leadership and advice to the Australian Health Protections Principal Committee on strategic policy, social issues, emerging risks and priority actions. Its membership is comprised of representatives from jurisdictional and peak bodies which address blood borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). The Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses (BBV) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Strategy articulates the vision, principles, goals, and targets for a national response to BBV and STI in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for the period 2018 to 2022.

The second BBVSS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI Strategy workshop BBV and STI Strategy making an IMPACT in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities was held last week on Thursday 22 April 2021. The workshop, facilitated by Adjunct Professor Jeanette Ward, discussed a range of matters including access to Point of Care Testing, Workforce composition, funding and retention, effective community education, health promotion strategies and critical actions for the BBVSS over the next 18 months to accelerate implementation of the Fifth Strategy in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

10 of the attendees at the BBV STI Strategy Implementation Workshop 22 April 2021

Attendees at the BBV & STI Strategy Implementation Workshop 22 April 2021.

Dan Murphy’s store will add fuel to drinking problem

Helen Fejo-Frith, 73, likes a bit of a tussle. A former football coach and player in the Top End, she is combative, tough and proud. On a balmy Darwin evening, Helen roams the streets greeting neighbours, walking on her hardened bare feet. She explains it’s likely shards of glass and bits of gravel are lodged into her soles. Her current stoush has been going on for five years. She likens it to a David and Goliath-like contest. Her opponent is retail giant Woolworths. “I’m retired now, but I’ll keep fighting this,” she says.

Helen lives in Bagot, an Aboriginal community located off a main road leading into the city of Darwin, where alcohol and drinking is banned.

To view the ABC News article Community leaders say new Dan Murphy’s store will add fuel to fire of town’s drinking problem click here.

photo of Helen Fejo-Frith in pink & red sleeveless dress standing on footpath with hand on metal gate & determined look on her face

Helen Fejo-Firth. Photo: Shaun Kingma. Image source: ABC News website.

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is also calling  upon the NT Government to urgently reconsider its plans to allow a Dan Murphy’s superstore to be built next to electively dry communities in Darwin. “This governmental direction completely undermines the efforts of the Bagot people to protect their community, and their health. We require a government that listens to, and respects First Nations voices above that of large corporations,” AMSA President Sophie Keen said today.

AMSA Indigenous Portfolio Manager Bradley Goff said the members of the Bagot community have exercised their right to self-determination through electively having their community declared dry under the Liquor Act (2019). “This was a course of action grounded in a desire to minimise the impact of alcohol on their community,” Mr Goff said. “The development of a liquor superstore within walking distance of the Bagot community not only jeopardises the effectiveness of their actions, but also renders farcical the legislative provisions that afforded them the opportunity for self-determination in regards to alcohol access.”

To view the AMSA’s media release in full click here.

artist's impression of the proposed Dan Murphy's store near Darwin Airport - top down image of large white roof of store & covered parking & green grass & hedge area

Artist’s impression of the proposed Dan Murphy’s store near Darwin Airport. Image supplied by NT Airports. Image source: ABC News website.

General Practice COVID-19 Update

The latest in a webinar series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs will take place from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM (AEST) Thursday 29 April 2021.

The webinar will provide the latest information on the vaccine rollout, presented by a panel of Australian Government Department of Health representatives: Dr Lucas de Toca (Chair) First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response; Nick Henderson, Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce; and Dr Steph Davis, General Practitioner and Primary Care Response.

For further details click here.GP COVID-19 update Professor Michael Kidd AM, photo of Prof Kidd in suit & blue purple image of COVID-19 cell under a microscope

Refreshed Prescribing Competencies Framework

NPS MedicineWise has released a refreshed Prescribing Competencies Framework. The Prescribing Competencies Framework describes the competencies that health professionals require to prescribe medicines judiciously, appropriately, safely and effectively in the Australian healthcare system. NPS MedicineWise recognises the ongoing need for, and value of, a consistent and standard approach to prescribing for all health professionals with prescribing rights.

Since the publication of the original framework in 2012, prescribing rights have been extended to new professional groups. This places an onus on a broader range of health professionals to contribute to quality use of medicines within their scope of practice. The need for, and value of, a consistent and standard approach to prescribing for all health professionals with prescribing rights is therefore ever more prevalent. Adequately preparing health professionals to prescribe within a quality use of medicines framework is essential.

As the national steward of Quality Use of Medicines, NPS MedicineWise, in consultation with key stakeholders in the sector, has undertaken a review of the original framework to ensure the document is contemporary, relevant and fit for purpose in order to continue to be of value in supporting quality prescribing decisions by all prescribers.cover of 'Prescribing Competencies Framework - Embedding quality use of medicines into practice - 2nd edition published April 20231, Review April 2025, NPS MEDICINEWISE - photo of woman smiling looking at medicine box, blurry pharmacy shelves in background

Decolonising medical education research

A recent article The role of governance in Indigenous medical education research considers the role of governance in Indigenous medical education research through the lens of an Australian Aboriginal research project titled Healing Conversations. The Healing Conversations project is developing and testing a targeted educational framework for improved clinical communication between healthcare practitioners and Australian Aboriginal peoples in regional and urban locations. It is proposed that an effective governance approach can support Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders to work together in decision-making structures to enable outcomes that promote and prioritise Indigenous worldviews and values in medical education research.

To view the article in full click here.

photo of word 'decolonise' in blue paint & handprints in purple lime & orange paint on cardboard against concrete pebble wall & paved floor

Photo: Louisa Billeter. Image source: OXFAM From Poverty to Power blog page.

Fears NDIS reforms will be traumatic & triggering

A doctor of 20 years with patients from the Stolen Generations says she fears contentious National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) reforms will traumatise and trigger vulnerable people who already hold deep misgivings about government institutions. Debra Blackmore, a GP with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, made the comments in a submission to the bipartisan parliamentary committee looking into NDIS independent assessments, which have sparked sector-wide backlash.

The proposed assessments (expected to take around three hours), which new NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds has put on hold for the time being, would see people outsourced to a government-approved health professional they don’t know to determine their eligibility for the scheme and the support they receive. Critics say the reforms are a cost-cutting move that will make it harder for people to access the NDIS, leave existing participants worse off and force vulnerable people to be assessed by strangers who don’t know their nuanced medical history.

To view the article in full click here.

an Aboriginal flag flies outside Parliament House in Canberra

Image source: SBS News website.

Did ya wash ya hands?

The NT’s Department of Health and Families No Germs on Me is a social marketing campaign to raise awareness of, and promote the benefits of regular face washing and hand washing with soap. The campaign is designed to be used in schools, at home and in the community to prevent the spread of germs and respiratory illnesses. It was developed to address the high rates of infection among children in Aboriginal communities.

The aim of the campaign was to motivate men, women and children to regularly wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet, after changing babies’ nappies and before touching food. The resources were developed with the assistance of focus groups and in-depth interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Top End and Central Australia, which determined the barriers and drivers to people routinely washing their hands with soap.

To view No Germs on Me campaign resources click here.

no germs on me logo, outline of two hands against splattered orange paint with white text 'no germs on me!'

Image source: Food Safety Information Council.

World Immunisation Week

Saturday 24 – Friday 30 April 2021

World Immunisation Week – celebrated every year in the last week of April – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need, and many miss out on vital vaccines during adolescence, adulthood and into old age.

Using the theme ‘Vaccines bring us closer, World Immunization Week 2021 will urge greater engagement around immunisation globally to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life. As part of the 2021 campaign, WHO, partners and individuals around the world will unite to:

  • increase trust and confidence in vaccines to maintain or increase vaccine acceptance
  • increase investment in vaccines, including routine immunisation, to remove barriers to access

For more information about World Immunization Week 2021 click here.

banner text 'Vaccines Bring Us Closer World Immunization Week 2021' text maroon colour, background dusty pink colour & arm of Aboriginal child & gloved hand with syringe holding arm

Image sources: World Health Organisation & SBS NITV website.