NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Mob at increased risk as borders open

Image in feature tile from The Guardian.

Mob at increased risk as borders open

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities are at increased risk as Australia opens up, due to dangerously lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates.

As the holiday season approaches and people start moving around the country and mingling more, vaccine coverage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continues to lag behind non-Indigenous populations. While currently 80.6% of all Australians aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 89.4% have had one dose, that figure sits at 54.5% fully vaccinated and 66.2% one dose for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To view the RACGP media release in full click here.

Image source: ACCAN website.

AMSANT vax count concerns

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT is calling on federal health authorities to pressure the territory government into changing how it measures the local coronavirus vaccination rollout. The government counts the number of  “jabs in arms” whereas the federal government data uses the Australian Immunisation Register data, which is based on addresses registered with Medicare.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner says the NT is just days away from reaching the 80% double dosed milestone and that the region will reach 90% by the end of the year. Federal data suggests the double dose rate currently sits at 66.9%.

Medical advisor for Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) John Boffa says the figures the NT government are relying on are inaccurate. “Miscounting vaccine coverage could have dangerous consequences,” Dr Boffa said. “Every other jurisdiction in the nation is using the legitimate way to measure vaccination coverage.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Dr John Boffa

John Boffa says the NT needs to rely on “legitimate data”. Image source: ABC News.

NT vax target ‘not ideal’

Health experts say the NT’s new target to vaccinate 80% of remote residents aged five and older “isn’t ideal” and the goalpost must be shifted closer to 100%. “To have an 80% vaccine callout for [people] over five years, it isn’t ideal,” UNSW epidemiologist and Yawuru woman Kalinda Griffiths said.

“Even with 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of five years vaccinated, the risk of death is still a little over 30 people per 100,000 people in the population,” Dr Griffiths said. “But if the uptake is 95% in those under five years old then the risk of death is near zero.”

The NT’s widespread and remote Aboriginal communities are home to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people. Many battle chronic health conditions and it’s common for a dozen people to live under the same roof. In remote Aboriginal communities managed by NT Health, 55% of residents are fully vaccinated.

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Vaccination rates in remote Aboriginal communities lag behind the NT capital. Photo: Hamish Harty, ABC News.

Cervical screening self collection option

The Australian Government has announced that self-collection will be an option for all participants under the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) from 1 July 2022.

Offering self-collection to all screeners is a game changer for the NCSP. It provides greater choice in screening options and is expected to increase participation in cervical screening and support better outcomes in under-screened women.

Expanded self-collection has the potential to remove some cultural and personal barriers that may discourage some women from screening, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, culturally and linguistically diverse women, and gender and sexually diverse people.

To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full click here.

Self-collection can offer an alternative pathway to overcome barriers some women experience to having a clinician-collected cervical screening test. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Discovery could help save kid’s hearing

Bacteria found in children’s upper respiratory systems could help fight chronic middle ear infections, the leading cause of preventable hearing loss and deafness in Indigenous communities. The University of Queensland’s Dr Seweryn Bialasiewicz said this discovery helped explain a long-held mystery, while providing hope for potential treatments.

“We’ve been puzzled for years now, trying to work out why some children never develop chronic ear disease, despite being in a high-risk category for contracting it,” Dr Bialasiewicz said. “By focusing on the microbiomes in the upper respiratory tracts of disease-resistant kids, we could investigate the ecological networks of bacterial interactions that seemed to be working together to protect against the condition.

Dr Bialasiewicz said they were hoping to use this information to figure out what the exact mechanism of protection is, and then mimic it in the very young children, as a therapy or a preventative measure.

“Chronic middle ear infections can affect between one third to one half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which is far above the 4% threshold that the World Health Organisation considers as a disease needing urgent public health action,” Dr Coleman said.

To view the UQ News article in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Thirrili October Newsletter

The latest Thirrili newsletter has been published. The October issue includes some amazing news from Thirrili advocates, job opportunities and much more.

To view the newsletter click here.

Katherine dialysis services to continue

NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles, says Fresenius Medical Care has been awarded a tender to continue to provide dialysis services in the Katherine region for five more years. “This extension of services delivers certainty for staff and current patients that the service will continue to operate as normal.

Fresenius Medical Care is operated through a public-private partnership with the NT Government. The 16-chair clinic provides haemodialysis treatment for a total of 30 patients per day. Over the next five years more than 42,300 treatments are expected to be provided at the Fresenius Medical Care clinic.”

To view Minister Fyles’ media release in full click here.

Image source: Katherine Times.

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.

COVID-19 vaccine update for GPs webinar

The latest in the Australian Government Department of Health’s series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs webinar will be held from: 11:30am–12:00pm (AEST) tomorrow, Thursday 11 November 2021.

This webinar is part of a series on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout. At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout and the panel will provide key updates and answer participants’ questions. GPs and all health professionals are welcome.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM this week will be Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health and Dr Antonio Di Dio, GP in Canberra.

When you’re ready to join, use this link, and to catch up on previous webinars click here.

Conquering Cancer virtual screening

A special virtual event screening of Conquering Cancer will be held at 7:00PM AEDT Wednesday 17 November 2021.

By supporting Conquering Cancer, you’ll be joining the global movement to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide. This is a huge moonshot but it is possible – and by doing so, it’s estimated that the lives of 62 million women will be saved. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

For now, all you have to do is grab some popcorn, put your feet up and enjoy the film on November 17 (tissue box optional). So spare yourself from the last minute scramble and secure your spot today.

The screening will be followed by a special Q&A panel with Professor Karen Canfell, Professor Marion Saville, Professor Yin Ling Woo and filmmaker Sue Collins. The panel is being moderated by Cate McGavin.

You can check out the official trailer of Conquering Cancer below, and book your $5USD ticket click here.