NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NACCHO demands action to eliminate hepatitis

NACCHO demands action to eliminate Hepatitis

This year’s World Hepatitis Day has NACCHO and Eliminate Hepatitis C Australia Partnership (EC Australia) have joined forces to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and unite to demand action from decision-makers to eliminate Viral Hepatitis impacting communities. COVID-19 has significantly impacted access to healthcare services across the country and Australians suffering from chronic diseases, such as Hepatitis B and C, have been greatly impacted. An estimated 200,000 fewer people received Hepatitis screening than the expected number in 2020 – a 20% decrease. Globally, 325 million people are living with a hepatitis infection and every 30 seconds someone dies from a hepatitis related illness.

NACCHO media release on World Hepatitis Day 2021: “Hep Can’t Wait” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities need to step forward for diagnosis and treatment to help prevent Hepatitis B and C.

More must be done to prevent new infections and ensure all that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have hepatitis C are treated. Addressing these inequities can’t wait. For each person who remains undiagnosed, their risk of liver damage and complications increases over time. Hepatitis C is curable and easy to treat.

NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills states, “Our communities have worked hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in regional areas, proving that when we work together, we can drive positive results for our people. However, the pandemic should not put the treatment of serious diseases at a standstill. The prevalence of viral hepatitis rates within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is concerning.”

“I encourage our people to reach out to their local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to get tested and seek treatment and help us share relevant information on how to control these diseases.”

In 2021 EC Australia will be convening a national reference group to support the development of a National health promotion campaign targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The campaign will raise awareness about and uptake of the new hepatitis C treatments and address ongoing stigma relating to hepatitis C and injecting drug use. The campaign will require further funding to ensure the message gets out to all Aboriginal communities.

AMS Redfern celebrates 50 years of service

Congratulations AMS Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative Ltd on celebrating 50 years since the establishment of the very first Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in Australia in 1971!

The Sydney AMS has evolved from a small shop front medical clinic into a multidisciplinary Primary Health Care service and has now been treating generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients for over half a century.

The documentary created by NACCHO in 2016 celebrates the history of AMS Redfern.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this video may contain images, voices and names of people who have passed away.

ACCHOs need adequate vaccine supply

Dr Jason Agostino is calling for adequate supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for Indigenous health services and other places where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are accessing healthcare. Dr Agostino says ‘we’ve seen that vaccination rates up to now have been lower than that of non-Indigenous Australians and that’s mainly been due to the supply, as we’ve been getting more Pfizer into Aboriginal health services we’ve seen coverage rates picked up and we need to support those efforts wherever it is happening.’

You can view Dr Agostino talking on ABC here.

screenshot of ABC interview with Dr Agostino re COVID-19 vaccine supply

AHWs increase patient outcomes

A new report has highlighted the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health practitioners in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patient outcomes. Released by the NSW Bureau of Health Information, the report is the culmination of 8,000 Aboriginal people’s experiences in NSW public hospitals and health services between 2014 and 2019. It found that the support provided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers overwhelmingly contributed to higher levels of patient care and satisfaction.

Proud Kuku Yalanji man and CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) Karl Briscoe said the “report reinforces what we have always known”. The report found that 64% of patients supported by an Indigenous healthcare worker said they ‘always’ had the opportunity to talk to a doctor compared to 47% who were not supported by an Indigenous health worker. And 79% said that Indigenous health professionals ‘always’ explained things in a way they could understand compared to 68% who were not supported by an Indigenous health worker.

The report also brought together data from Indigenous women who gave birth in hospitals in the care of Indigenous health care workers.

To view the article in full click here.

Aboriginal female patient sitting up in hospital bed, medical professional sitting on bed & Aboriginal Interpreter Service employee sitting beside bed

Image source: SCIMEX website.

Delivering safe water to communities

Aboriginal communities have come together with water planners, tech companies, infrastructure engineers and academics to develop smart solutions. The drinking water is contaminated in nearly a quarter of remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. These are communities where Aboriginal people live on their homelands by choice. Traces of arsenic, nitrates, E coli and even uranium are revealed in a damning Auditor-General’s report.

Despite access to safe, acceptable and affordable water being a basic human right, according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, many Australians are compromising their health when they drink water from the tap.

It’s a risk that Annette Stokes, Chief Investigator for the Western Desert Kidney Health Project, knows too well, “Every Friday we’re having funerals. Our people are dying.”  Stokes’ project set out to reduce diabetes and kidney disease in ten homelands communities. Through her research she identified unsafe nitrate levels in drinking water as a key disease risk in those communities.

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal hand under running tap water, outback red dusty landscape in background

Image source: ABC News.

Aboriginal English in health communications

Indigenous Australians experience poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians. They are sick more often, die younger and are at higher risk of serious health complications, including heart disease. One way to improve health outcomes is through targeted health communication in local languages. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen increased attention given to the use of Indigenous languages in health settings around the world, including Australia.

Many COVID-19 resources have been developed in partnership with local communities, including in widely-spoken Australian Aboriginal languages such as Kriol. Other initiatives have inspired new Indigenous health professionals to effectively communicate complex medical terminology and concepts to communities. A frequent assumption among non-Indigenous people in Australia is that mainstream English media should work well for the almost 80% of Indigenous people in Australia for whom Aboriginal English is their first language.

You can view the article in full here and an animated Heart Foundation video encouraging Aboriginal people to get a heart check below.

Updated cancer portal

Cancer is a term used for a variety of diseases that cause damage to the body’s cells. Normally cells grow and multiply in a controlled way but cancer causes cells to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled way. If these damaged cells spread into surrounding areas or to different parts of the body, they are known as malignant. Some cancers can be treated, but the effectiveness of treatment and survival rates vary between different types of cancer and patients.

Cancer is a problem in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Some cancers, particularly lung and other smoking-related cancers, are the cause of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. This is partly because high proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people engage in smoking tobacco and other risk factors like risky drinking and poor nutrition. Other factors that increase the likelihood of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dying from cancers are:

  • the types of cancers they develop (such as cancers of the lung and liver) are more likely to be fatal
  • their cancer may be more advanced by the time it is found (which is partly because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may visit their doctor later and/or may not participate in screening programs)
  • they often have higher rates of other conditions that affect the cancer or cancer treatment
  • they are less likely to receive optimal treatment

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has an updated Cancer portal providing information on bowel, breast, cervical, lung and prostate cancer as well as risks and protective factors, prevention and management and cultural perspectives.

You can access the cancer portal here. and the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet Summary of cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.cover of Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet summary of cancer among ATSI people publication, including artwork 'Karnta' by Corinne Nampijinpa Ryan

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Conference

The Department of Rural Health invites you to attend the 2021 Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference.  This year the conference will be held online, commencing at 9:30 AM on Wednesday 13 October 2021.  The conference will begin with a keynote address from Mr Stan Grant.

The conference program is currently being finalised and updates can be viewed on the Department of Rural Health website here.

You can register for the conference here – registrations close Thursday 23 September 2021.

If you have any further enquiries please do not hesitate to contact Ms Di Doyle (Events Coordinator) on 02 5823 4512 or by email here.

banner Aboriginal dot art & portrait shot of Stan Grant

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard