NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO announces pharmacist scholarship

feature tile text 'applications now open for NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist scholarship' & logo for scholarship

NACCHO announces pharmacist scholarship

NACCHO has announced that applications are now open for the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship, proudly supported by a grant from Sanofi Australia. The Scholarship provides subsidy and support for prospective or current Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students and aims to build the pharmacist workforce amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Dawn Casey PSM FAHA, NACCHO Deputy CEO said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists and pharmacy students are significantly underrepresented in the pharmacy profession. Building leadership and skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals is a critical enabler in supporting cultural safety in the health sector. This financial support combined with mentorship will provide a tangible way to help students to thrive in their professional training and stands to build confident and self-determined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy sector leaders.”

Associate Professor Faye McMillan, a proud Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman), Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner and Pharmacist said, “Another example of the outstanding leadership of NACCHO and the commitment to the future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy workforce through the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship. So delighted to see scholarships supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students.”

For more information on this exciting opportunity, visit the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship webpage here.

Associate Professor Faye McMillan

Associate Professor Faye McMillan, a proud Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman), Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner and Pharmacist.

What ‘living with COVID’ means for mob

According to Jennifer Doggart, who has written an article What ‘living with COVID’ really means for so many people as Australia follows other countries in relaxing COVID public health measures, the needs of many Australians are being ignored. People with disabilities and chronic illnesses, the aged, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk from these policy changes.

A range of factors, including poorer (on average) underlying health status and structural barriers to accessing care, reflecting the ongoing impacts of colonisation place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at increased risk. This plays out in the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with data showing for instance that nine our of 10 COVID-19 patients in hospital in the NT are Indigenous.

To view the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.

Aboriginal artist, Greg Muir in wheelchair with Aboriginal painting in the background, paint brushes in hand

Aboriginal artist, Greg Muir lives with cerebral palsy. Image source: Scope.

Homeless, vulnerable and unjabbed

Paige Taylor, Indigenous Affairs Correspondent, WA Bureau Chief has written a story for The Australian about homeless Aboriginal couple Melinda Williams and Timothy Dick who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 more than a year after they were prioritised in the national rollout. It is a story that has played out in towns and cities across Australia. Neither considers themself to be an anti-vaxxer and both are dogged by health problems that make them more likely to get very sick if infected with COVID-19.

Yet no state or territory has had as much time as WA to protect the most vulnerable, or win their trust in order to convince them to protect themselves. Despite the luxury of time and a well-resourced vaccine drive in WA, a survey of 522 rough sleepers in the centre of Perth by Homeless Healthcare found that 32% had not had a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on 21 January. There are an estimated 1,000 rough sleepers in and near the city, 41% of them Indigenous.

Lisa Wood, from Notre Dame University’s Institute of Health Research, said the reasons why homeless people do not get vaccinated defy assumptions that suggest anyone who is not vaccinated by now does not want to be. Some homeless people had been involuntary mental health patients and were, as a result, wary of the health system, she said. Others had a deep distrust of authority because they been removed from their parents by child protection workers, or their children had been removed from them. Professor Wood said this was why vaccinating rough sleepers took time. It was important to build trust, ­answer questions and give people the chance to come back a few times. “There are also practical barriers to getting vaccinated, such as lack of transport, no phone or computer to book appointments, or to receive reminders,” Professor Wood said.

Indigenous woman Melinda Williams

Indigenous woman Melinda Williams sleeps rough on the streets of Perth and has been unable to secure a Covid vaccine. Photo: Tony McDonough. Image source: The Australian.

Yarrabah outbreak peaks

Yarrabah’s increased vaccination level combined with a slowing of transmission through the community has resulted in a sharp decrease in the daily infection rates. Daily infections continue to decrease with only 34 positive cases recorded in the past seven days, compared with 78 the previous week. Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Director of Clinical Services, Dr Jason King is confident the worst has passed for Yarrabah. “With a steady decrease in daily cases, it is obvious we are now moving through the tail of this outbreak. This will be welcome news for our community, but it will allow our teams to ramp up our vaccination drive,” he said.

Vaccination levels in Yarrabah continue to rise and currently are sitting at more than 50% of the 16+ community fully boosted. We have come a long way from the low 20% levels in August last year, to where we are currently with more than 83% of the community double vaccinated. Our focus is now to lift significantly our booster rates. With the change to the waiting time, down to 3 months, it’s critical that we increase our booster rollout and protect our community fully. The current outbreak has ripped through the community with more than 720 cases registered in the community. This figure could have been greater. As a community we were 70% double vaccinated at the start of the outbreak earlier this year.”

To read the GYHS media release in full click here.

Anthony Brown-Sexton and Wendy Stafford with mask, chatting over wire fence

Yarrabah resident Anthony Brown-Sexton and GYHS Care Team member Wendy Stafford.

Ending avoidable blindness by 2025

Professor Hugh Taylor, University of Melbourne, Indigenous Eye Health founder says great progress has been made in establishing regional stakeholder networks nationwide that link ACCHOs with service providers and local hospitals. The government has prioritised and committed to “End avoidable blindness by 2025” for Indigenous Australians. Now it needs to release its implementation plan to build and strengthen the services required. An important component will be improving leadership and ownership among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision was released in early 2012. When the government implements its priority to “End avoidable blindness by 2025”, the roadmap will have been essentially completed. The Indigenous Eye Health unit will then recast its role, focussing on technical support and advice to strengthen Indigenous leadership in the ACCHOs, the regions, the states and territories and nationally.

To view the Insight article in full click here.

Professor Hugh Taylor

Professor Hugh Taylor. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Fewer young people in aged care

The number of Australians aged under 65 living in permanent residential aged care fell by 20% from almost 4,600 in September 2020 to around 3,700 in September 2021, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The number of Australians aged under 45 living in residential aged care fell by 24%, from 120 to 91 during the same time period. The report, Younger people in residential aged care, shows the number of younger people in permanent residential aged care decreased in every state and territory between 2020 and 2021.

‘The Australian Government has set targets to have no people under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022, and under the age of 65 by 2025 (other than in exceptional circumstances), through the Younger People in Residential Aged Care Strategy 2020–25 released in September 2020. The AIHW report tracks progress against these targets over the past year,’ said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.

In September 2021, just over half (53%) of the younger people living in residential aged care were male and 10% were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The majority (59%) of younger people living in residential aged care were aged 60–64. Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) were aged 45–59, and 2% were aged 18–44.

To access the Inside Ageing article in full click here.

ATSI carer hands holding ATSI hand

Image source: Aged Care Guide.

Highest rates of dementia in world

Studies have shown that Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas of the country are disproportionately affected by dementia, with rates approximately double those of non-Indigenous people. A new study shows that Aboriginal Australians living in urban areas also have similar high rates of dementia. The study was published in the 9 February 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Given that the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples now live in urban areas, these results are critically important,” said study author Louise M. Lavrencic, PhD, of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney. “Aboriginal Australians have among the highest rates of dementia in the world, so we looked at some of the potential risk factors that may be facing this population.”

“While the study was not designed to examine factors such as the ongoing effects of colonisation, systemic racism, and the resulting social and health disparities across Aboriginal Australian communities, these factors are likely to contribute to the higher rates of dementia,” Lavrencic said. “Larger studies are needed to look at these effects and identify culturally appropriate and effective dementia risk reduction strategies.”

To read the Science Daily story in full click here.

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean. Photo: Erin Parke, ABC Kimberley.

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.

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