NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO joins pre-election health discussion

Image in feature tile, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2022.

NACCHO joins pre-election health discussion

Yesterday Dr Norman Swan, who hosts the ABC Radio National Health Report, said as it has been a long election campaign with not much on health it had been decided for last Health Report before the election to try and cover health issues that have not been covered in the campaign by the major parties. Dr Norman Swan has hosted the pre-election health discussion with four experts talking about the pressing issues: what are the most pronounced problems, what type of care is the most effective, how should rebates work, and what health questions have not been raised at all.

The discussion begins with Dr Swan asking NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM about the recent study done of the economics of health care in Aboriginal communities. Ms Turner said that NACCHO commissioned Equity Economics to look at the gap in health expenditure in terms of what is paid by the government for all Australians and for Aboriginal people. It was found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people require an additional $5,042 per head of population which equates to a $4.4 billion shortfall in funding Aboriginal health in this country – $2.6 billion from the Commonwealth and $1.8 billion from the states and territories in terms of what they should be inputting.

Ms Turner said the figures had been adjusted for the health status of Aboriginal people, who have, on average, over two times the burden of disease that other Australians with a life expectancy still 8–9 years below that of other Australians. Ms Turner then outlined some horrific statistics: Aboriginal people are 3.7 times more likely to have kidney disease, 3.3 times more likely to have diabetes, 3.2 times more likely to suicide as youth, 2.1 times more likely to die in infancy and youth are 55 times more likely to die from RHD. What is driving this is, Ms Turner said, is the overall lack of equal funding to make up for the health gap, “we can’t close the gap between the life outcomes of our people until we get at least equal funding as other Australians do, on basis of need.”

You can listen to the ABC Radio National episode Considering health issues ahead of an election of the Health Report with Dr Norman Swan here.

Nigel Morton and half of the 500 residents of his town, Ampilatwatja, NT have diabetes. Image source: ABC News website.

Remote communities pay 39% more for food

Residents in remote Aboriginal communities pay the highest average price for food in Australia. Advocates say the next PM must act to ensure affordable, healthy food is available for all Australians. The local supermarket is the heart of Wirrimanu, a remote Aboriginal community on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in WA’s Kimberley region. It’s the only shop of its size for 300 kms and it’s only open limited hours each day, supplying fresh and dry food, as well as clothing, basic furniture and some white goods.

Plastic curtains hang over the front door to keep dust and flies out, as residents enter to pick up their goods and use the ATM. But what’s really surprising about the store are the prices on the shelves. When SBS News visited the Wirrimanu Community Store, a 380g jar of Vegemite was selling for $13.25; a plain loaf of white bread for $4.99 and a two litre bottle of orange juice was priced at $7.20. A 500g bag of San Remo pasta cost $4.40 while a 250g packet of Arnott’s biscuits cost $5.85.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency estimates that residents of remote communities pay 39 per cent more for supermarket supplies than consumers in capital cities, and the gap could be widening. Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito was browsing the aisles, and told SBS News the community has little option but to pay the prices. “If people are desperate and hungry, they will buy whatever they must,” he said. Ronald has diabetes and said he’s trying to improve his diet, but the availability of fresh, affordable food is a major problem.

To view the SBS News article Remote communities pay 39 per cent more at the supermarket checkout than city shoppers. Here’s why that’s a problem. in full click here.

Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito says the community has few other options but to pay the prices. Image source: SBS News website.

Opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health

One of the most important presentations at this year’s 52nd RANZCO Congress was the launch of the college’s Vision 2030 and Beyond plan to overcome Australia’s long-standing and complex eye health equity issues. One of the presenters Dr Kristen Bell called for an Atlas of healthcare delivery to help address healthcare variance, depending on where people live. In her presentation on service delivery issues, Dr Bell – the Vision 2030 and Beyond clinical lead – said ophthalmology differs from other specialties, with 80% being outpatient care-based and 20% surgical. Chronic sight threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration make up the bulk of ophthalmic service delivery, with acute care often bypassing surgery and emergency to the outpatient setting.

Dr Bell presented maps of Australia showing very few public care areas outside of urban areas. NT and WA fund outreach from Darwin, Alice Springs and Broome, respectively, while Tasmania has recently started funding an additional service in the NW of the state, giving these three jurisdictions the best regional coverage. But across Australia, 30% of entire population and 65% of Indigenous patients have no or limited access to a publicly funded local outpatient service.

To view the Insight article A pivotal opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health in full click here.

Auntie Emily at the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, Darwin Photo: Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source: Optometry Australia.

TIS National Coordinator on new vaping laws

In the below video, National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking, Professor Tom Calma AO answers questions including:

    • What is vaping?
    • What are the current laws around nicotine vapes?
    • Can nicotine vaping help me stop smoking?

This video forms part of a campaign created by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the National Best Practice Unit for Tackling Indigenous Smoking. You can view other resources, including a brochure and posters, developed for the campaign here.

NPS MedicineWise low literacy consumer resource

NPS MedicineWise has developed a number of low literacy consumer resources, which aims to support conversations between a Health Care provider and patient (or patient representative) regarding medicine choice for treatment of mild COVID illness in people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and are at higher risk of disease progression.

The medicines mentioned in the resources are the two oral antivirals and the monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab. There are also FAQs for prescribers and dispensers working in ACCHOs for these same three medicines. The links below to the low literacy factsheets for use in ACCHOs and remote communities can be found on the NPS MedicinesWise website.

Paxlovid, Lagevrio (Molnupiravir), Sotrovimab (Xevudy). Image sources: FirstWord Pharma+, Medical Update Online, The Guardian, GSK UK Products.

Health services need to cater for the whole person

The University of Melbourne on-line Pursuit magazine has published an article Embracing Queer Indigenous Australia – Health services need to cater to the whole person as a human right, and that includes Indigenous LGBTIQ+ Australians by Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and University of Melbourne.  In the article, Todd Fernando says: I’ve been fortunate in my life to build a strong sense of pride in my identity as a queer Wiradjuri man. Despite this, my intersectionality – the way different identities can marginalise people or expose them to discrimination – is sometimes misunderstood, particularly in health settings.

This experience rings true for many queer Indigenous people, as evidenced in my recently submitted doctoral thesis exploring health equity for queer Indigenous people. The findings of my own and previous research highlight the need for services to understand the importance of catering to the full person. Because as humans, we don’t divide easily. Without further data that truly captures the lived experience of queer Indigenous people, no effective changes to systems can be lobbied for. The belief that heterosexuality is the preferred or ‘normal’ sexual orientation is as much a direct threat to the survival and advancement of queer Indigenous people as racism is.

To view Todd Fernando’s article in full click here.

Image source: 2SER Breakfast radio.

Keep mob healthy this winter with flu vax

The Lung Foundation of Australia are conducting a campaign from mid-May to June to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be vaccinated against respiratory diseases this flu season. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months are eligible for a free flue vaccination. You can access the Lung Foundation Australia website for more information here.

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.

Arthritis Australia National Grants Program

Arthritis Australia has long been a leader in funding nationally and internationally based research programs to find solutions in the management of Arthritis. In the past three years Arthritis Australia has awarded many research projects, fellowships, scholarships, project grants and grant-in-aid projects from an annual donation sum of $7m.  Arthritis Australia’s National Grants Program is currently accepting applications for 2023. This year we are welcoming applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship sponsored by Janssen.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship is for research to be undertaken in 2023 for a duration of 12 months, in the field of Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Fellowship will be awarded to a researcher who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or who has a team member who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The researcher must be currently undertaking post-doctoral work or following a recently completed Rheumatology Advanced training.

Applications are open until Friday 8 July 2022.

The can access further information about the National Research program here and the Fellowship Application form here. Applications should be forwarded to Arthritis Australia using this email link. If you have any further queries, please email Arthritis Australia using the email address here or call the Arthritis Australia office on 02 9518 4441.

Image source: Merri Health.

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