NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Lessons for mainstream health services

Image in feature tile from Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation website.

Lessons for mainstream health services

The longevity and success of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health (ACCH) sector has some valuable lessons for mainstream health services, according to a panel of Indigenous health experts at the recent Giant Steps conference. In a recent article, written for Croakey Health Media, Jennifer Doggett reviewed the key points raised by the panel discussion: “One of the success stories of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the achievements of the ACCH sector in preventing the spread of infection among Indigenous communities.

The conference panel included Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO who reminded participants that ACCHOs have been part of Australia’s health landscape since before the introduction of Medibank (the precursor to Medicare) in 1975. She stressed the innovative model of primary healthcare developed by the ACCHOs and their focus on prevention and social justice, all later adopted by World Health Organization in its Declaration of Alma-Ata in 1978.

Brad Brown described ACCHOs as a “home away from home” and discussed how the community controlled model has deep roots in Aboriginal culture. “Aboriginal people sit around a lot and talk and yarn. We talk about how to do things better, and what our current needs are. Local people talking about their local issues are part of our culture – we know that needs are different place to place and we know how to reframe what we do to meet local priorities. Community control is part of self-determination,” Brown said. As well as providing comprehensive primary healthcare to Indigenous Australians, the panel discussed how the ACCHO model provides some important lessons for the rest of the health system about how to deliver inclusive, community controlled and integrated care.

To read the Croakey Health Media article Lessons from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector in full click here.

Landmark mural by Aboriginal artists, Ray Thomas, Kulan Barney and Ruby Kulla Kulla, in partnership with world famous street artist Adnate, launched in 2016 to mark the 20th anniversary of VACCHO. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Ingkintja Male Health Service leads way

Ingkintja: Wurra apa artwuka pmara is an Aboriginal Male Health Service at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress that has taken the lead in providing cultural activities and social and emotional wellbeing services for male health for many years. The ACCHO delivers a full suite of medical care complemented by social support services with an emphasis on preventative health, servicing over 1,000 men every year.

The Ingkintja ‘Men’s Shed’ male-only washing facilities (showers and laundry facilities) and gym enable males, both young and old, to come together and access fitness, comradery and practical life skills. A psychologist and Aboriginal care management worker are available through Ingkintja, allowing therapeutic care on counselling, violence interventions, and cultural and social support to men.

The theme of Men’s Health Week (13–19 June) this year is Building Healthy Environments for Men and Boys. Ingkintja is Congress’ male only service supports men and boys through a range of ways to build healthy environments. The Ingkintja clinic does preventative 715 health checks – a complete check of your physical health and wellbeing to keep men and boys on track to stay well. Having regular health checks helps men and boys stay in control of their health and wellbeing so they can stay strong and well.

For more information about the Ingkintja Male Health Service click here.

Ingkintja: Wurra apa artwuka pmara is an Aboriginal Male Health Service at the CAAC. Image source: CAAC.

Calls to redirect mental health funds

Indigenous psychologists at the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association-hosted forum held earlier this month, have criticised a state of ‘political limbo’ they claim has led to the funnelling of money into non-Indigenous organisations despite years of calls to redirect efforts to community-led, culturally-appropriate models.

Townsville Elder and professor Gracelyn Smallwood opened up the forum and in a call to action said it was important to do away with bickering to ensure the new Federal government addressed closing the gap targets, “the only programs that are effectively working are programs that are from the bottom-up rather than top-down, which is mostly paternalistic and government controlled.” Concern over white organisations receiving funding for Indigenous services is nothing new, however aunty Gracelyn laments the practice remained too common.

Kabi Kabi and Australian South Sea Islander psychologist Kelleigh Ryan said “The system, it still hears the talk of holistic, it hears the talk of Indigenous led, it hears the talk of First Nations or cultural Integrity but it doesn’t really understand, so then it often chooses what it always knows. So it chooses the people (the system) has a relationship with, instead of the organisations who are doing the work, who have always been doing the work.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Indigenous psychologists’ call to redirect mental health funds to First Nations services in full click here.

Plans to begin Birth Centre construction

On the 21 February 2022, Waminda South Coast Aboriginal Women’s Health and Welfare Corporation (Waminda) hosted the Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, and the Hon Fiona Phillips MP, Federal Member for Gilmore, where they pledged on behalf of the Labor Government $22 million towards the Birthing Centre and the Birthing On Country program. With the funding now promised to the Community, Waminda and the Minga Gudjaga program (Waminda’s Maternity & Childcare program) are already making plans to begin construction before 2023.

Melanie Briggs, Senior Endorsed Midwife at Waminda said “We hope to secure land soon, and we will be building a purpose built facility, so that our mum’s can birth their babies in this place. The next steps are…Birth Centre Criteria, Risk Assessments, we’re developing a cultural and clinical governance committee to ensure high quality safety [for clients]. We’re also increasing our partnership with our local health district by providing services in the hospital for our women. We’re designing our birth centre. It’s designed by the cultural committee and the women in the community. We’re actually going back out into Community to do more consultations around what the [Birth Centre] needs to be, and what Community want it to be.”

You can access Waminda’s media release Birthing on Country closer to our goal here.

Waminda Birthing On Country program. Image source: IndigenousX.

SMS4Dads supporting fathers

There’s not a lot out there that speaks directly to dads.It’s a simple idea. Dad’s are really busy before and after the birth – there is no way they’ll come to lots of parenting classes… but they do have mobile phones. SMS4dads provides new fathers with information and connections to online services through their mobile phones.

SMS4dads supports men in their role as fathers and increases awareness of their influence on baby’s brain development. SMS4dads helps fathers understand and connect with their baby and partner. It also checks in on their wellbeing and offers professional support if needed.

SMS4dads is FREE.  It provides info related to the age and stage of the baby. It’s the info dad’s need – when they need it, how they need it – straight to their phone. For more information about SMS4dads and to join click here.

Single test could rule out heart attack

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers have identified a way of more quickly determining the risk of a heart attack for Indigenous patients, which could fast-track their treatment and ease hospital overcrowding. Results from a single test could be used to safely rule out heart attack for up to one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with low troponin levels according to QUT research.

Published earlier this week in the Medical Journal of Australia, QUT Associate Professor Jaimi Greenslade from Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation (AusHSI) evaluated data from 110 patients who presented with chest pain to the Cairns Hospital emergency department. The current process to identify heart attack was to test for levels of troponin, a protein released from damaged heart muscles into the blood stream, at the time of patient presentation and again 2-3 hours later.

“There is a growing body of evidence reporting that a single test may be adequate to rule out heart attack for a group of non-Indigenous patients, but limited research has evaluated the use of a single test for Indigenous patients,” said Professor Greenslade.

To view the QUT article Single test could rule out heart attack in Indigenous Australians in full click here.

Mental Health Co-Response program expands

The WA state government  is expecting improved outcomes for people with a mental illness when it introduces a Mental Health Co-Response (MHCR) program into the South West region following the successful roll out of program in Geraldton in August 2021. The “innovative” program is a cross-government response to mental health challenges that sees WA Health, WA Police and the Mental Health Commission in partnership. The CHCR program involves mental health practitioners from WA Country Health Service and police officers co-responding to calls seeking assistance, where mental illness is identified as a likely factor.

By providing specialist intervention and support, the initiative aims to provide a coordinated response for people experiencing mental health crisis, including self-harm, alcohol and other drug-related issues. WA Police Minister Paul Papalia said “This initiative has proven to be effective in the metropolitan area and in the first regional site, Geraldton. It’s good for the community, individuals, families and police. Having Aboriginal mental health workers as part of the co-response team will also ensure a culturally sensitive response to people in the community experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Response teams will be supported by Aboriginal mental health workers, to ensure Aboriginal communities have access to culturally informed support. The program will initially cover Bunbury and immediate surrounds from the end of July 2022.

To read the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail article WA government announce a mental health co response program to South West in full click here.

Ageism and elder abuse linked

SA Health has a new media campaign which aims to raise public awareness of the link between ageism and abuse and mistreatment of older people. The campaign reminds the community that older people have rights – the right to make their own decisions, to work, be safe, and be treated with dignity and respect. It highlights that when others assume an older person cannot do something and exclude them because of their age, it makes them feel invisible and sad.

The 2021 National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study reported that one in six older Australians experienced some form of abuse or mistreatment in the 12 months before the survey, from February to May 2020. In a SA survey of older people, around half said they did not feel valued in their community. Ageism stems from negative views of older people and the ageing process.

The new campaign underscores that ageism can lead to mistreatment, neglect, and other forms of abuse and it urges people to reflect on how they treat the older people in their life. The campaign will feature on digital and social media, radio, in print, and on screens in shopping centres around regional and metropolitan SA for the next six weeks.

For more information click here.

Elder, Kimberleys WA. Image source: Al Jazeera.

 

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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