NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Looking beyond the CTG statistics

Image in feature tile from Australian National Audit Office website.

Looking beyond the CTG statistics

Following the release of the 13th annual Close the Gap report, Pro Bono Australia spoke to the CEO of the Lowitja Institute, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, about the need for governments to embrace genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap in health outcomes.

Produced by the Lowitja Institute, this year’s Close the Gap report centres on the work of community-led organisations and services providing health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. Among its key recommendations are calls for action on gender and climate justice, a national housing framework, and full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Adjunct Professor Mohamed, said that the report showed that community-led work on closing the gap on health outcomes was already happening, but now it needed to be “truly” supported.

“The report is a beautiful and powerful call to action, showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led brilliance at work, in all sorts of settings, paving the way ahead as we have done as peoples over millennia,” Mohamed said. “Now it’s time for governments and mainstream services to step up, and step back, if we are to truly close the gap in health outcomes for our peoples.”

You can read the Pro Bono Australia article in full here.

Image source: Pro Bono Australia website.

2022 National Immunisation Program

Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Health, Dr Brendan Murphy has provided a 2022 National Immunisation Program influenza program update, with important information about influenza vaccines available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for the 2022 Influenza season.

Dr Murphy says that the influenza vaccination is particularly important this year. Over the COVID-19 period/reduced circulation of influenza virus and lower levels of influenza vaccine coverage compared with previous years may have resulted in low levels of community immunity. With international borders reopening a resurgence of influenza is expected in 2022, with the Australian community potentially more vulnerable to the virus this year.

You can view Dr Brendan Murphy’s letter in full here.

ATAGI advice on COVID-19 vax winter dose

The Australian Government Operation COVID Shield 25 March 2022 Primary Care Vaccine Roll-out Provider Bulletin includes the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on the winter dose of the DOVDI-19 vaccine. The ATAGI recommends an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine for winter for selected population groups who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and who have received their primary vaccination and first booster dose. These groups include:

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise (as defined in the 11th February 2022 ATAGI statement on the use of a 3rd primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older

ATAGI recommends the rollout of the winter dose for the above groups commence from April 2022 and coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program.

You can access the 25 March 2022 Primary Care Vaccine Roll-out Provider Bulletin here; recommendations for key population groups for an additional COVID-19 vaccine winter dose from April 2022 here; and the ATAGI Recommended Dose and Vaccines poster here.

syringe entering arm

Photo: Albert Perez, AAP. Image source: ABC News website.

Health workforce: not normal, not safe

Dr Clare Skinner, President of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has written an article Health workforce: Not normal, not safe, but it can be fixed for the Medical Journal of Australia’s online publication, InSight. Dr Skinner writes: There is a Māori proverb in Aotearoa New Zealand that says, “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata he tangata.” It translates as, “What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers across Australia have said, repeatedly, the biggest problem is not the supply of ventilators, or intensive care beds, or personal protective equipment, the problem is people, specifically the supply of skilled workforce. We don’t have enough staff, we don’t have enough staff in the right places, and we don’t have enough staff with expertise in the right areas.

The clinical workforce is unevenly distributed. Health professionals, especially doctors, are highly concentrated in major cities. Health outcomes in rural and remote areas lag behind outcomes in metropolitian areas. There is an urgent need to develop workforce models that improve health care access and equity, especially for Indigenous Australians living in remote communities.

Australia must also train an adequate health workforce to meet its own needs, and the needs of the region, as well as allowing for some international movement of trained clinicians with well designed and responsive re-credentialling processes. In particular, we need urgent and sustained attention to training and supporting Indigenous health professionals.

To view the InSight article in full click here.

Dr Clare Skinner with stethoscope around neck in front of ER sign

Dr Clare Skinner, President Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. Image source: Daily Telegraph.

Diabetes across the Lifecourse

The Menzies School of Health Research has developed a range of health professional resources to improve systems of care and services for people with diabetes and their families in rural and remote Australia, specifically the NT, Far North Queensland and the Kimberley, WA.

You can access the resources here, including Dhalaleena’s Story – Talking about Diabetes video here. This video features Dhalaleena, an Aboriginal Health Practitioner with the Top End Regional Health Services, talking about her journey with diabetes. In the video Dhalaleena discusses the following topics 1) diabetes and glucose 2) the role the pancreas plays in diabetes 3) the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, and 4) the importance of exercise in managing diabetes.

Cognitive function in those with diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) has a subtle deleterious effect on cognition and imposes a higher lifetime risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. A research article Using health check data to investigate cognitive function in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living with diabetes in the Torres Strait, Australia published in Volume 5, Issue 1 of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism says the findings of their research suggest that early and subtle decrements in working memory may be a potential complication of diabetes among Indigenous Australians living in the Torres Strait. In this population, which has elevated dementia rates linked to chronic disease, our results highlight the need for more preventative health resourcing. The results of the research suggest that early identification of younger people with diabetes, targeted education and supported glycaemic control could be important for protecting cognitive health.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: ICU Management & Practice website.

Using digital wellbeing tools webinar

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have always adapted to new technologies and are finding creative ways to maintain their health and wellbeing in the digital world. There are a range of websites, apps, videos and other online resources that our health and community workforce can use with their Indigenous clients to help them stay physically and mentally well. A recorded one hour webinar available on demand will introduce you to a new social and emotional wellbeing website called WellMob. The WellMob website is a bank of over 200 Indigenous-specific digital resources to promote a healthy mind, body and culture.

The inspiration for the WellMob website came from our frontline workers who identified the need for a ‘one-stop-shop’ of culturally appropriate wellbeing resources. An all-star panel of Indigenous wellbeing workers will share some online wellbeing resources and yarn about how to use with your clients and community.

You can access further details about the webinar and enrol using this link.

Image source: The Australian & NZ Mental Health Association.

Trauma and pregnancy project research position

The Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health has an exciting position to work with VACCA and La Trobe Regional Hospital in Morwell, supported by the Healing the Past By Nurturing the Future project team:

The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), in partnership with Latrobe Regional Hospital, are looking for a new Community Researcher to work with them on a research project: Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future.  It is an Aboriginal-led project that aims to demonstrate how we can best provide support during pregnancy and after birth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who have experienced complex trauma. The Community Researcher will work to engage Aboriginal Community members and use their knowledge of Community, culture and Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing to advise the team.

This position is based at VACCA and Latrobe Regional Hospital, with support from University of Melbourne. This is a fixed term position for up to 4 years, open to full-time or part-time applicants. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply. If you would like more information or to apply, please refer to the Position Description here and/or contact Cath Chamberlain on 0428 921 271 or via email using this link.

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.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) encourages and assists entry-level Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health students to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to one of Australia’s most outstanding Aboriginal leaders, the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter. Puggy is known for his outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of NACCHO. He devoted the majority of his life to improving Aboriginal health outcomes.

From this year, the Scheme is extending the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals to participate in the PHMSS Mental Health Studies Mentoring Program as a mentor. The program pairs up PHMSS scholarship recipients (within the mental health discipline) with more experienced First Nations practitioners. The aim is to increase the amount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals and retain them. This will be done by supporting the students to complete their studies and transition them successfully into their practice as smoothly as possible.

For more information and to apply visit the Australian College of Nursing website here. No need to register, just click on the link on the day to join. Applications close Monday 11 April 2022.

There will also be an online information session at 1:00PM on Monday 4 April 2022 via Zoom here.

Working with the Nephrologist: Stages 4 & 5

Kidney Health Australia are hosting a health professional webinar from 7:30PM–8:30PM (AEST) Tuesday 12 April 2022. Nephrologist A/Prof Richard Baer will present a case study that addresses symptoms, management and treatment options in stages 4 and 5 of CKD. A suitable management plan to slow the progression of CKD will be discussed along with treatment options in kidney failure and when to refer to a nephrologist.

This is a RACGP accredited activity for 2 CPD points. Activity # 331983 (pending approval).

To register for this webinar, you will require a Zoom Account. If you have a Zoom account you can register here for the webinar.

If you do not have an existing Zoom account sign up here first sign up for Zoom here and then register for the webinar via the link above.

Upon successful registration you will receive a confirmation email from Zoom.

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