NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: RHD impacts on young First Nations people

Image in feature tile from Bupa Take Heart of RHD webpage.

RHD impacts on young First Nations people

Mrs Vicki Wade, a Director at RHDAustralia and Senior Cultural Advisor at Menzies School of Health Research, is a senior Noongar woman with over 40 years’ experience in health at state and national levels. In 2021, she received a Heart Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award for her project investigating the impacts of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in young Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Vicki is undertaking research to explore the social and emotional needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (aged 15 to 25 years) with RHD. The Heart Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award will support her PhD, and build the capacity of an Aboriginal community researcher. The award will also build the capacity of Aboriginal individuals and communities to advocate for their own needs – beyond their medical needs – which must be addressed to improve health outcomes.

To view the article Q&A with Mrs Vicki Wade – Beyond the Scars: The social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with RHD on the Australian Heart Foundation website click here. You can also view Vick Wade talking in the video below about the an RHDAustralia program, Champions4change, which involves over 60 champions across Australia who are passionate about making a difference in their communities. These champions are ideally placed to support the emotional and social needs of their communities, as they have the lived experience of rheumatic heart disease.

Myriad issues compound poor youth health

WA’s north feels the pinch due to food insecurity more than most, according to a host of Boab Health Services professionals. Dieticians Mandy Cripps, Tara Rawson and Isabelle Walker, and paediatric dieticians Aimee Sullivan and Sally Conte said a large proportion of children and youth seen by Boab present with issues such as growth faltering, iron deficiency and obesity, often stemming from varying levels of food insecurity.

The group said many factors drive food insecurity at an individual and systemic level, including weather, remoteness, environment, power supply, poverty, unemployment, high staff turnover and a lack of locally produced food, all of which drive up the price of food. “The Kimberley Region has people who are amongst the most disadvantaged in Australia paying the most for their food,” they said. Boab also identified the lack of personal transport to purchase food, overcrowded housing, a lack of adequate cooking facilities, trans-generational trauma and significant rates of poor mental health.

The Boab dieticians said it was important any solutions to the crisis were co-designed and community driven. “There is an obvious need for crisis food provision – giving food to those in need short term – as well as a longer-term strategic approach,” they said. “Not having enough good food to eat impacts on learning and life outcomes, and we are keen to see what can be done to help children in this situation.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Myriad issues compounding poor health among WA’s youth revealed as govt launches inquiry in full click here.

Empty shelves in the Kimberley, WA. Photo: ABC. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Water woes for remote NT communities

Yuelamu is a small indigenous community of 200–300 people, with the population varying depending on which family came to visit. Located 280 kms NW of Alice Springs, the community is in one of the most remote areas of the country, nestled among rocky hills at the end of a long stretch of red dirt road. The large community dam and lush greenery surrounding the township are deceiving. The reality is that this is one of the most water-stressed communities in the country.

The most recent measurements from NT’s Power and Water Corporation suggest that the small aquifer that has been the community’s main source of water since 2016 has just 18 months of supply left. It’s an improvement from measures last month, when the utility announced that groundwater supplies had reached an all-time high and crews were immediately trucked to the community for water.

As the latest sampling put an end to the need to truck in water, crews began work on the facilities to truck water in from a temporary borehole on the highway. Tanami, 20 kms away, which should open by the end of May. It’s a band-aid solution with a hefty price tag, but one that could be the lifeline of Yuelamu.

You can read the Duchetridao article Indigenous Yuelamu community faces water crisis as aquifer dries up in full here and watch a short video about the water availability issues in Yuelamu here.

Signs around Yuelamu explain to locals how to save water. Photo: Saskia Mabin, ABC Alice Springs. Image source: Dicjetrodap.

Brain injury support for mob

An Edith Cowan University (ECU) research project has established in-community stroke and brain injury support groups run by, and catering to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Project lead Professor Beth Armstrong said the initiative was created after previous research identified a gap in the continuity of care of Aboriginal Australians following a stroke or traumatic brain injury caused by an incident such as a car accident, fall, or assault.

“The essential component involves providing a culturally safe space that Aboriginal Australians will be comfortable with and will want to come back to,” Professor Armstrong said. They aim to help improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians, who are often underrepresented in rehabilitation services.

You can access the SBS NITV radio interview Bridging the gap for Aboriginal Australians with traumatic brain injury SBS NITV Radio here.

Photo: Edith Cowan University. Image source: SBS NITV Radio.

Regional Australians avoid bowel cancer diagnosis

Listen to your body and don’t ignore what it’s telling you — that’s the advice of Geraldton man John McLellan who has battled bowel cancer and knows all too well how important it is to react quickly to unusual body changes. He recommended regional men and women listen to their bodies. “If you think you’re not well, don’t ignore it and seek advice,” he said. The Cancer Council is urging adults in the Mid West to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of bowel cancer, and to visit a doctor if they begin experiencing symptoms.

“In the Mid West region in 2019, 50 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 17 people died from it,” Cancer Council Mid West regional educational officer Aiden McDowell said. Cancer Council WA’s recent data shows 25 people a week are diagnosed with bowel cancer in WA alone, with regional Australians less likely to be alive five years after diagnosis compared with Australians living in metropolitan areas. Mr McDowell said in 2019, bowel cancer — or colorectal cancer — was the third most common cancer in men and women in WA.

“If you’re unsure about a possible symptom you should make an appointment to discuss the change with your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible,” he said. Common symptoms of bowel cancer include blood in faeces, a new pain, lump or swelling in the stomach, fatigue, paleness, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite and unusual bowel movements.

To view The West Australian article Cancer Council statistics show Mid West bowel cancer figures are high and regional Australians avoid diagnosis in full click here. You can also view a WA Cancer Council bowel cancer screening campaign Youtube video featuring Mary G below.

FASD clinician guideline questionnaire

The University of Queensland in collaboration with 12 organisations around Australia are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the Australian Guide for Assessment and Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). As part of the process of revising the guideline, they would like to gather experiences, input, and feedback from Australian clinicians and are inviting you to complete the Australian clinicians’ determinants questionnaire to better understand clinicians’ awareness and current utilisation of the guideline.

Participation of this questionnaire is completely voluntary and should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. If you are interested in participating this research, you can access the questionnaire here and if you have any questions regarding the study, please contact Dr. Natasha Reid via email here.

You can view a recent article Key Stakeholder Priorities for the Review and Update of the Australian Guide to Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Qualitative Descriptive Study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health which summarises initial input gathered from the project’s Advisory Group members here.

Image source: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

New treatment keeps bush kids close to home

Medical researchers have started a project designed to treat sick outback kids near where they live – keeping them close to home and family, and saving millions of dollars in aeromedical transport costs. Ms Sally West, a Clinical Nurse, researcher and PhD student at James Cook University’s Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health, is part of a study that includes researchers from Griffith University, James Cook University, Wesley Hospital and Metro South Hospital and Health Services. She said the team will focus on the treatment of children suffering Acute Respiratory Failure (ARF) in rural and remote areas.

“Acute respiratory distress in children is the most common reason for emergency department (ED) presentations in Australia and is the reason for more than half of all hospital admissions of children under one year of age. It’s also the most common reason for paediatric aeromedical transfers in remote Australia. We saw an opportunity to collaborate with lead world respiratory paediatric researcher Dr Andreas Schibler, this was the obvious step forward given his landmark work in nasal high flow therapy” said Ms West.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Donna Franklin from Griffith University  said many rural and remote hospitals see delays in transfers due to the distances involved, availability of aircraft or weather, often resulting in an extended stay in the local ED for the children and increased pressure on local resources. “What we are setting out to do is introduce nasal high-flow (NHF) therapy to rural and remote hospitals,’’ she said. “This is a relatively new and effective approach to help children with ARF. The uptake of NHF in urban and tertiary hospitals has been rapid over the past few years, but rural/remote health care settings are lagging behind.”

To view the James Cook University article New Treatment keeps bush kids close to home in full click here.

Proud Arrernte and Garrwa actor Dujuan Hoosan. Photo: Maya Newel. Image source: Outdoors Queensland.

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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