NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Vital role of First Nations midwives

Image in feature tile is of a participant of a new, dedicated, midwifery service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be, established by Townsville Hospital and Health Service in partnership with Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS). Image source: Townsville Bulletin.

Vital role of First Nations midwives

First Nations midwives play a vital role in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children, according to Pamela McCalman (midwife and PhD Candidate at La Trobe University), Professor Catherine Chamberlain (Professor of Indigenous Health Equity at The University of Melbourne) and Machellee Kosiak, who is affiliated with Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund.

Reporting on results from the Birthing in our Community study, they write that “in addition to western midwifery training, First Nations midwives draw on cultural and community knowledge systems” and “foster a sense of cultural safety and trust in maternity services for First Nations women”. While Australia is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, First Nations women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than other Australian women and First Nations infants are almost twice as likely to die in the first month of life, with preterm birth the biggest cause of mortality.

Ensuring First Nations children are born healthy and strong is the second Closing the Gap target – a critical foundation for “everyone enjoying long and healthy lives”. A much needed step to guarantee this is to increase First Nations health workers, particularly midwives and nurses. The article goes on to discuss the health impacts of colonisation, the vital role of First Nations nurses and midwives and the need to increasing their number.

To read the Croakey Health Media article First Nations midwives’ leadership and care are central for improving outcomes click here.

Midwife Mel Briggs, wearing “Sister Scrubs” to identify herself as Indigenous, Yuin woman Hayley Williams and baby Jaari. Photo: Janie Barrett. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

AMA emergency pharmacy trial meeting

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid has called an emergency virtual meeting tonight to discuss the North Queensland Scope of Practice Pilot. The North Queensland pharmacy trial, as it has been called, will allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense autonomously. It will allow chemists in 37 local government areas to diagnose and treat 23 conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart failure and asthma without consulting a GP.

The Queensland Government says a recent two-year Queensland urinary tract infection (UTI) pharmacy prescribing trial was a success, but the AMA strongly disagree, saying the trial lacked transparency. With no meaningful data available about the UTI trial, which was open to non-pregnant women aged 18 to 65, AMA Queensland surveyed 1,300 doctors and found approximately one in five treated patients for serious complications which were either missed or misdiagnosed by pharmacists in the trial. The complications ranged from antibiotic allergies to ectopic pregnancies to cervical cancer.

The AMA and AMA Queensland believe the trial places an unacceptable risk on patient health and safety and will exacerbate workforce shortages and hospital pressures; widen the health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; fragment healthcare and exacerbate emergency department ramping and hospital logjam; and is a major conflict of interest for pharmacists.

To view the AMA Queensland article AMA calls emergency Town Hall meeting click here. You can also view NACCHO’s Media Statement NACCHO and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector oppose the proposed Queensland Community Pharmacy Trial on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: AMA News website.

The new addiction of vaping

Vaping is a multi-billion-dollar global industry that is rapidly growing in popularity amongst teenagers and young adults. Vaping was hailed as the new way to quit smoking but there are serious concerns the product is now causing nicotine addiction in teenagers. On Monday next week Four Corners investigates the explosion in vaping amongst teenagers and the booming black market which is thriving in Australia due to a failure to police the rules. Reporter Grace Tobin tracks down some of the suppliers who are illegally selling nicotine vapes either online or under the counter in stores.

To view the ABC Four Corners media release Vape Haze: The new addiction of vaping in full click here.

According to a Talking About the Smokes survey 21% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke have tried vapes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had tried vaping were younger; living in non-remote areas or more advantaged areas; people who smoke daily and wanting to quit, having made a quit attempt/used NRT in the past year.

You can find more information on Tackling Indigenous Smoking webpage Facts about vaping (e-cigarettes) webpage here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Mental health surf program for youth

Biripi and Bundjalung siblings Amber Hamer and James Mercy are working to raise awareness about the importance of mental health through surfing. Surfing has been part of their lives from their earliest days in Coffs Harbour, NSW. “We went straight from the hospital when I was born ,Mum and Dad took me straight to the beach, because Dad was dying for a surf. I guess that started my lifelong affinity with the water,” Ms Hamer said.

Their late father Eric Mercy was a well-known surfer and beloved member of the local community who took his own life. Now, the brother and sister duo are continuing their father’s legacy by teaching youth about mental health and well-being on Gumbaynggirr Country. Five years ago they started hosting regular surfing camps to help young people learn about the healing beauty of the ocean. Their project is called Naru, the Gumbaynggirr word for water.

To view the SBS NITV article The surfing program teaching youth about culture and mental health click here.

Equity and emergency care

Equity and emergency care was the theme for day two of the 21st International Conference on Emergency Medicine on 17 June 2022. One of the speakers, Professor Greg Phillips, spoke about improving outcomes for First Nations people, how to address systemic racism and decolonise healthcare by blending Aboriginal and Western health paradigms with better representation and rewritten health curricula. He highlighted the importance of separating intent from affect, saying white fragility and recognition of privilege in healthcare is a pressing issue that involves a lot of listening and a lot of unlearning, especially for clinicians.

Ways to keep mums-to-be healthy

Dr Karen Best leads SAHMRI research in Adelaide, SA that targets optimal nutrition for women and kids. Dr Best, a Senior Fellow in the Women & Kids theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), designs and manages clinical trial research to understand the best nutrition for pregnant women.

Food eaten during pregnancy keeps the mother healthy and supports the growth and development of the baby. However, certain components of food – nutrients- are important for more subtle aspects of health. Karen’s recent research has focused on a type of fat called omega-3, which is found in oily fish, walnuts and other foods. “We found a dietary supplement of omega-3 in women who had low levels could reduce their risk of preterm birth,” Karen explains.

Preterm birth can result in developmental problems for babies and is often distressing for families. Required support and healthcare are costly. Even just a small improvement in that rate could translate into better outcomes for the children and families involved, and lowered expense for the healthcare system. SAHMRI’s Women & Kids theme is also researching optimal levels of iodine in pregnancy. Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral important for developing the brain and nervous system. “In this study, we’re looking at levels of iodine in pregnant women and how that is linked with developmental measures we assess once the baby reaches age two,” Karen explains.

To read The Lead article Discovering the best ways to keep mums-to-be healthy in full click here.

Photo: Emma by Jess Naera Creative. Image source: Australian Birth Stories.

Community First Development Fellow’s Oration

At Community First Development, ‘research success’ is research that is requested, led and delivered by First Nations’ people and communities. It is undertaken through deep listening and strives to achieve the outcomes that communities have set out to achieve. The First Nations Research and Evaluation Fellow is a pathway for First Nations’ academics to explore, design and deliver evaluation and research projects driven and led by First Nations’ people and communities.

Community First Development launched the inaugural Fellowship in 2020. As part of the Fellowship Murran/Iwaidja woman, Donna Stephens, our first Fellow, took a lead role in a participatory action research project with 11 communities across Australia. The final report has been published, and findings have been presented at numerous events. At this year’s oration Donna will speak on Participation and Community Development: Reflections on Change Organisations.

You can download an the invitation to the event here and register for the live webcast this Friday, 25 June 2022 by clicking 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.

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