NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aboriginal-led initiatives, solutions the answer

Image in feature tile: Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO, Lead Convenor of The Coalition of Peaks. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Australian.

Aboriginal-led initiatives, solutions the answer

The Close the Gap report released today has called for an urgent investment in community-led health services to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NACCHO strongly supports the messages, the actions taken and the recommendations that need to be addressed to drive health transformation.

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner states, “We already know that policy and programs that are led by our people work better for our people and that comprehensive structural reform is needed to ensure equitable outcomes for our people. These are things we’ve been telling the government for decades, and it’s about time they took note of the evidence that this report demonstrates – that Aboriginal-led initiatives and locally-led solutions work.

“Key data show that the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health is profound. It is hardly surprising that we live 8-9 years less than other Australians.

“The big questions for all governments and all jurisdictions are in closing the funding gap in health and in fixing the deplorable state of Aboriginal housing.”

“Fully implementing the National Agreement on Closing the Gap will be critical to ensuring structural reform that embeds Aboriginal self-determination and leadership. That means increased investment in models and approaches that are self-determined and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led. It also means ensuring the health system more broadly is equipped to provide flexible, culturally safe and place-based care across the whole life course.”

“We are already seeing some movement from governments to implement the four Priority Reforms, which is encouraging. But there is still a significant way to go before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have decision-making power over the policies and programs that affect us.

The 2022 Close the Gap campaign report will be available for the public to read and is accessible here.

To view the NACCHO media release in full click here.

banner with image of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner & quotes re CTG report

Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Australian.

ACCHO health service for prisoners

The Winnunga Alexander Maconochie Centre Health and Wellbeing Service (AMCHWS) is the first prison health service operated by an ACCHO in Australia. A pilot study has developed and implemented a patient experience survey to evaluate the novel model of healthcare delivered by the Winnunga AMCHWS to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners.

Patients accessing the Winnunga AMCHWS between February and May 2020 were invited to participate in the study. Descriptive data were analysed and compiled for demographics, patient satisfaction, patient perception of care quality, cultural safety, and patient thoughts on the Winnunga AMCHWS.

Sixteen of 26 eligible patients participated in the survey (62% response rate). At least 75% of patients were satisfied with the waiting time to see staff at the Winnunga AMCHWS most or all of the time. All 16 patients reported that Winnunga AMCHWS staff always treated them with dignity and respect. Of 14 patients who identified as Aboriginal, nine felt that they were treated better by staff because of their Aboriginal identity while the other five felt their Aboriginal identity made no difference to their treatment by the staff.

This patient experience survey of the Winnunga AMCHWS found that it has provided highly satisfactory, timely, respectful, and culturally safe care to patients. Due to the limitations of this study, continual evaluation of the Winnunga AMCHWS and future studies to evaluate the continuity of care, health, and re-offending rates of released patients are needed to fully evaluate the Winnunga AMCHWS model.

You can view the Evaluating Patient Experience at a Novel Health Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prisoners: A Pilot Study article that appeared in the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet here.

view of front of AMC

Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Kathleen Dyett. Image source: ABC News.

National Close the Gap Day

Australia’s peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations are working together to achieve equality in health and life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Close the Gap Campaign aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. The campaign is built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved by 2030.

In February 2018 the Close the Gap: 10 Year Review was released. The review examines why Australian governments have not succeeded in closing the health gap, and why they will not succeed by 2030 if the current course continues. The aim is to close the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health gap by implementing a human rights based approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set measurable targets to track and assess developments in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. These targets include achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation and halving the mortality rate gap for children under five years old within a decade. In March 2008, the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and the Opposition Leader at that time, Brendan Nelson, signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent at the Close the Gap Campaign’s National Indigenous Health Equality Summit.

The Close the Gap Statement of Intent is the touchstone of the Close the Gap campaign. When the Australian Government signed the Statement of Intent it committed to a sound, evidence-based path to achieving health equality, a path supported by the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector.

To access the Australian Human Rights Commission website click here.

screenshot of Close the Gap new website home page

Community-led health solutions need funding

The Close the Gap campaign has called for an urgent investment in community-led health services to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country. The 2022 Close the Gap Report: Transforming Power – Voices for Generational Change has 12 recommendations for large scale transformation and systemic reform to avoid further preventable deaths and protect Indigenous health, wellbeing, culture, and Country.

These include the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap plans, investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data development at the local level and the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led research agenda for health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the impacts of systemic racism in health systems.

To read the Close The Gap media release in full click here.

Darryl Wright, CEO. Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Airds, NSW

Darryl Wright, CEO. Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Airds, NSW.

Impact of jailing children unfathomable

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says the age of criminal responsibility must be raised to 14 years to end the jailing of mostly Indigenous primary-aged children, warning incarceration is harming their mental health. The college is part of a Close the Gap campaign and supports their report released today calling for urgent investment in community-led Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

Professor Ngiare Brown, a Yuin nation woman and National Mental Health Commissioner, said about 600 children under the age of 14 were jailed every year despite “substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long-term effects” on physical and mental health. “The fact that Indigenous children account for 65% of youth incarcerations is a harrowing statistic,” Professor Brown, who chairs the RACP’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee, said. “The human impact of this is unfathomable.”

RACP President Professor John Wilson called on governments to follow the recommendations of the 2021 Close the Gap report to take a preventative and rehabilitative approach. “We are calling for all Australian states and territories to address the incarceration of Indigenous children and raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years in line with the best health evidence,” Professor Wilson said.

To view the Brisbane Times article in full click here.

Aboriginal hands gripping mesh wire

Image source: The Conversation.

$140m to improve health services for mob

Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt released a joint media statement today saying:  National Close the Gap Day, is a day to reflect on the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. All of us can contribute to closing the gap by working together to recognise and address the factors behind the health gap.

To continue to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities, a $140 million major capital works program is being opened tomorrow for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) to build, buy or renovate health clinics and staff housing. The Major Capital Program grant opportunity complements the recent Service Maintenance Program grant opportunity which was for repairs, maintenance and minor upgrades. Minister Wyatt said “For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people will become genuine partners in efforts to support their mental and physical health. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap, reached in July 2020 between the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, and the Australian Local Government Association, was an historic step forward. “Through the agreement, in health and other areas of government service, we are working with Indigenous experts to design and deliver policies and programs for indigenous people.”

“We are also adopting more effective, better targeted approaches to other major health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” Both grant programs were co-designed in partnership with the sector through the national peak body – NACCHO. Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and NACCHO Ms Pat Turner, said, “NACCHO has advocated for a long time for increased funding for infrastructure for the health sector and this funding supports and recognises the critical role that ACCHS play in the Australian primary health care architecture.”

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

staff from Orange Aboriginal Medical Service standing in front of OAMS building

Staff from Orange Aboriginal Medical Service. Image source: The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness website.

Calls to lower bowel screening age

New research led by the Daffodil Centre, a partnership between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney, shows screening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for bowel cancer from the age of 45 instead of 50 could reduce bowel cancer death and incidence rates by up to 44% and be cost-effective. The research, published internationally in the Journal of Cancer Policy and conducted by a team from the Daffodil Centre and Wellbeing SA, is the first Australian study to establish the benefits of extending the age range and boosting participation of Australia’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Lead author Dr Jie-Bin Lew, from the Daffodil Centre’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Policy and Evaluation stream, said the study modelled and compared maintaining the current program age range of 50-74 to lowering the starting age to either 40 or 45. “The benefits in lives saved and cancers prevented were higher if the starting age in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was lowered to 45 and could also be cost-effective,” Dr Lew said.

“In our analysis, screening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from age 45 would reduce bowel cancer mortality rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by 28%, compared to no screening if the current participation rate of 23% is maintained. If participation increased to 42%, bowel cancer mortality could drop by 44% compared to no screening.

To view The National Tribune article in full click here.

Photo: Andreas Smetana.

PHMSS Mental Health Studies mentors needed

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) would like to extend the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, to participate in the PHMSS Mental Health Studies Mentoring Program as a mentor.

The mentoring program pairs PHMSS scholarship recipients (within the mental health discipline) with more experienced First Nations practitioners with the aim of increasing entrance and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals into practice. It will do this by supporting the students to complete their studies and transition successfully into practice.

The benefits for participants in a mentoring program include: improved confidence, self-awareness, clearer career direction, better communication skills, listening skills, feedback skills, more assertive communication, and enhanced management skills.

During the program, you will receive frequent communications from the scholarships team, giving you helpful tips and information about mentoring and access to other relevant materials available for supporting mentees. For first-time mentors and those who would like a refresher, there is an online training program and relevant materials available to help prepare you for a mentoring relationship.

During the seven month program, mentors and mentees will be expected to be in contact at least monthly.

You can apply now by clicking here. ACN will be holding an online information session Monday 4 April 2022, full details will be uploaded here soon.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact the ACN scholarships team by email here or call 1800 688 628.

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.

World Oral Health Day

The World Dental Federation began World Oral Health Day in 2007 with the aim to bring together the world of Dentistry to achieve good oral health for everyone. World Oral Health Day aims to empower people with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to secure good oral health. On the 20 March each year the world is asked to come together to help reduce oral diseases which affect individuals, healthcare providers and economies everywhere.

Oral diseases are a major health concern for many countries and negatively impact people throughout their lives. Oral diseases lead to pain and discomfort, social isolation and loss of self-confidence, and they can often be linked to other serious health issues. There is no reason to suffer as most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages, this is the message being spread across the world.

For more information about World Oral Health Day click here.

Image source: Quality Compliance Systems website.

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