NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: More time needed for diabetes patients

The image in the feature tile is of Townsville GP Jacinta Power with a patient. Image source: James Cook University website.

More time needed for diabetes patients

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and NACCHO have issued the following joint media release calling for greater investment in general practice care of people with diabetes:

RACGP: Greater investment needed in general practice care of people with diabetes

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged the new federal Government to boost investment in general practice to provide more time to care for people with diabetes.

It comes during National Diabetes Week (10 – 16 July 2022). Around 1.8 million people in Australia have diabetes (this includes all types of diabetes as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes) with 280 people developing the condition every day.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that the new federal Government can do more to enhance general practice care of people with diabetes.

“GPs and general practice teams play a vital role helping people manage chronic conditions like diabetes,” she said.

“With the right kind of investment, we can do even more. Greater support for longer consultations and GP-led team care will make a huge difference for people with chronic conditions. The RACGP is calling for the introduction of a rebate for GP consultations that last 60 minutes or more and a 10% increase to existing Medicare rebates lasting more than 20 minutes. Longer consultations provide an opportunity for GPs to support care of people with chronic conditions.

“Coordinating care with other health professionals is also important in complex chronic conditions like diabetes. The Workforce Incentive Program or WIP provides financial incentives to practices across Australia to meet the complex health needs of older patients and those with chronic complex health conditions. It helps them to engage a range of health professionals including nurses, allied health professionals, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health practitioners.

“By boosting investment in the Workforce Incentive Program practices could, for example, work more closely with other health professionals such as diabetes educators or general practice-based pharmacists. The RACGP has long championed co-ordinated care to reduce fragmentation and healthcare costs.

“By incorporating the pharmacist role within the general practice setting we can offer an alternative model that delivers integrated care, something that is especially important for people with diabetes. This would be particularly beneficial for people managing their diabetes and make a real difference in communities nation-wide, especially those disproportionately affected by this condition such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Diabetes Network Dr Gary Deed backed Adj. Professor Price’s comments.

“We know that living day-to-day with a chronic disease such as diabetes can significantly impact someone’s life, including the fact that it is associated with higher rates of mental health issues. This is a national problem, and, with greater support, practices can help people take charge of their health and get a better handle on conditions like diabetes,” he said.

“If a patient doesn’t have the right kind of support and isn’t managing their condition properly, the consequences can prove dire. As an example, untreated or poorly managed diabetes can quickly lead to severe complications that involve almost all every part of your body, including your heart, eyes, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and more. So, I fully support Adj. Professor Price’s call for the Government to give practices a helping hand so that more people are supported in managing their diabetes.”

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Director, Medicines Policy and Programs Mike Stephens said that the right approaches are crucial in helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients better manage their diabetes.

“The Integrating Pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to Improve Chronic Disease Management, known as the ‘IPAC Project’, which embedded pharmacists into ACCHOs has been effective in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those with conditions such as diabetes,” he said.

“We are encouraged by the Medical Services Advisory Committee’s recent appraisal in June 2022 of IPAC: ‘an excellent example of an integrated, collaborative, patient-centred approach to primary care which has the potential to have a meaningful societal impact by improving equity of health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’.

“Given the project’s demonstrable acceptability and effectiveness, it is time for government to provide a sustained investment in integrating pharmacists into team-based primary care settings, including ACCHOs.  One existing program that provides a suitable framework for funding includes the WIP.”

In 2020 in collaboration with Diabetes Australia, the RACGP has launched the updated Management of type 2 diabetes: A handbook for general practice (Diabetes Handbook) as a primary healthcare tool to support practices nation-wide.

The RACGP’s Vision for general practice and a sustainable healthcare system outlines a model of care that aims to address the nation’s healthcare challenges and ensure the best possible health outcomes for patients through general practice. The economic benefits of implementing the Vision show that it is a sound return on investment.

You can view the joint RACGP and NACCHO media release on the NACCHO website click here.

Unpacking diabetes and the heart webinar

On Thursday 28 July 2022 the Heart Foundation is partnering with the World Heart Federation and Australian Diabetes Society to bring to you a health professional webinar focusing on the latest evidence on cardiovascular (CVD) and diabetes. The event will be chaired by Prof Garry Jennings, Chief Medical Advisor of the Heart Foundation, who will be joined by Professor Rod Jackson, internationally renowned epidemiologist, as well as Australian experts as they discuss the latest evidence and how it can be translated into practical preventative care. Topics to be discussed will include:

  • How to stratify CVD risk within a diabetes cohort – who is at highest risk?
  • Updates on diabetes pharmacological therapies and their cardiovascular benefits
  • The fourth pillar of heart failure management – how are diabetes medicines used to treat heart failure
  • Practical advice on motivational and behavioural strategies to support improvements in CVD risk factor management.

This event has been accredited by RACGP for 2 CPD points. (Activity no. 355838).

You can register for the webinar using this link.

Mob urged to get bowel cancer screening

A new campaign featuring Gabbi Gabbi man Dr Joel Wenitong is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to stay healthy and strong by doing a bowel cancer screening test every two years. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of bowel screening and increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. The Australian Government program provides people aged 50-74 years with a free screening test every two years.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer and one of the most common cancers impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data (2018-2019) indicates that just over a quarter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (27.3%) participated in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program while a 2019 survey by Cancer Council found nearly half of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed weren’t up to date with any kind of cancer screening. Dr Wenitong says early detection, through screening, can help save lives and reduce bowel cancer rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view the Third Sector article First Nations community encouraged to stay healthy and get bowel cancer screening in full click here.

Dr Joel Wenitong. Image source: Third Sector.

How much life has COVID-19 cost us?

New data from the  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows how Australians’ health changed over the course of the pandemic. It allows us to step back and assess what happened, and to whom. Australia’s management of the pandemic was overall very good, leading to about 18,000 deaths averted in 2020 and 2021. However, the pandemic is not over. The number of deaths in the eleven months since the plan was released is almost ten times the number than in the 18 months before.

Although most deaths throughout the pandemic were in people aged over 60, each of those was a shortened life. Thousands of years of life have been lost prematurely because of COVID-19. People living in the poorest communities had death rates three times that in wealthier communities.

Some preventive care was deferred during the pandemic, which could mean some diseases weren’t detected in their early stages, resulting in poorer outcomes. The rate of Indigenous health checks also took a downturn. This may mean it will be even harder to close the gap between the health of First Nations Australians and the rest of the population.

To view The Medical Republic article How much life has covid cost us? in full click here.

Image source: First Opinion.

People with diabetes at risk during COVID-19

People living with diabetes had an increased risk of complication and death during the COVID-19 pandemic, new data shows. More than 40% of COVID-related hospitalisations in 2020-21 had one or more diagnosed comorbid conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. This was a significant increase from 25% the year prior, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Additionally, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were the most common comorbid conditions associated with COVID-19 hospitalisations between 2020-21.

The report also found in recent years the impact of diabetes has been higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those living in remote or lower socio-economic areas. The diabetes prevalence rate was 2.9 times as high among Indigenous Australians as non-Indigenous based on age-standardised, self-reported data from the 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey. The impact of diabetes is higher with increasing remoteness and socio-economic disadvantage.

To view the Daily Mail article People with diabetes at risk during COVID in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia website.

Digital health design must have authenticity

The CSIRO have heard the calls for advice on how to design ehealth solutions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. But the key is not designing for any particular community, it’s designing with them, over a long period and with authentic relationship. The CSIRO’s Indigenous eHealth Research Centre which is creating a best practice guide for designing digital health solutions with Indigenous peoples Ms Georgina Chelberg, who is from the eHealth Research Centre, says that at the core of good design are community priorities and the need to be honest about structural racism.

“We speak about the social determinants of health and that the disadvantage caused by policies and governance that are embedded with racism. When we don’t address that authentically in the way that we do our research, the health of people continues to suffer,” Ms Chelberg says. Sustainability in projects is another key requirement of best practice design. “Interventions often lack longevity; the funding cycle ends and the researchers disappear with a publication to their name. So, that creates mistrust and further disadvantage to community which flows on to create poor health outcomes,” Ms Chelberg says.

To listen to the Wild Health Summits podcast Indigenous digital health design should lead with authenticity click here.

The CommDoc app features 19 Aboriginal languages spoken in the NT provides audio translations of phrases and questions patients are asked in a consultation to be able to provide treatment. Image source: eLearn Australia.

Registrars in short supply in regional areas

Difficulties securing GPs and registrars in regional areas has left Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation with only one scheduled GP onsite for six months. It comes following the current GP registrar’s six month placement ending in early August. As a result, from August 8, there will only be scheduled visiting GPs onsite to provide community appointments, limiting the number of available appointments and leaving Pangula with a general practitioner for only five hours per week.

According to the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency, Mount Gambier has about 30 GPs, nine registrars and three visiting doctors throughout Pangula Mannamurna, Hawkins Medical Clinic, Ferrers Medical Clinic, Dr Try Medical Clinic and Village Medical Clinic. This number does not include GPs or registrars who work at the Mount Gambier and District Hospital. Pangula Mannamurna CEO Andrew Birtwistle-Smith said difficulty finding adequate housing was also an issue for incoming staff.

To view The Border Watch article Registrars remain in short supply in full click here.

Pangula Mannamurna’s CEO Andrew Birtwistle-Smith has his regular check up with Aboriginal health practitioner John Watson. Image source: The Border Watch.

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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