NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: World Hepatitis Day 2022

The image in the feature tile is from the Hepatitis Australia website.

World Hepatitis Day 2022

World Hepatitis Day, held on 28 July, is an international annual day observed by the United Nations and one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) nine officially mandated global public health days. In Australia, World Hepatitis Day is coordinated by the national peak body Hepatitis Australia to raise awareness and promote action on viral hepatitis. Hepatitis Australia’s vision is to see an end to viral hepatitis in Australia.

In November last year The Kirby Institute released a report, available here, Progress towards hepatitis C elimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. This was the first report to provide an account of progress of hepatitis C elimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as framed by global and national strategies. The key findings of the report were:

  • At end 2020, an estimated 117,810 Australians were living with chronic hepatitis C of whom 18% (21,548) were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Unrestricted access to government subsidised direct-acting antiviral therapy for hepatitis C has seen large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people treated and some declines in hepatitis C related liver failure and mortality.
  • Although hepatitis C testing and diagnosis proportions are high, findings highlight gaps in treatment uptake and harm reduction coverage, including new hepatitis C infections, of particular concern among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

You can access Hepatitis Australia’s website here and download a factsheet with the latest statistics on hepatitis B and C in Australia here.

More work needed to CTG

The Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report, released today, provides new information for nine socio-economic targets within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The assessment of these targets paints a mixed picture, and emphasises the need for more resources to finally Close the Gap in life outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

While targets relating to the healthy birthweight of babies, enrolment of children in preschool, youth detention rates, and land mass subject to rights and interests are on track, many are not. Children commencing school being developmentally on track, out-of-home care, adult imprisonment, deaths from suicide, and sea country subject to rights and interests all need work.

“We only have 8 years left of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. That’s 8 years to meet every target, not just some of them. This report should instil a sense of urgency in everyone working on Closing the Gap activities”, said Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Patricia Turner AM.

To view the Coalition of Peaks media release More work needed to Close the Gap click here and the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report July 2022 here. A related ABC News article Latest round of Closing the Gap data shows ‘disappointing’ progress for Indigenous Australians with only four of 17 targets on track published today, and available   here, the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said “It’s incredibly disturbing to see that a number of Closing the Gap targets are not on track.”

Heal Our Way campaign launched

Heal Our Way is a NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Campaign funded by the NSW Ministry of Health under Towards Zero Suicides (TZA) initiatives. The campaign, led by Cox Inall Ridgeway in partnership with Aboriginal communities in NSW, aims to encourage help seeking from community by equipping them with the skills to have safe conversations around suicide.

Heal Our Way recognises that cultural identity, belonging and connectedness are central to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ wellbeing and are protective factors that help in managing life stressors. Dr Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman and lecturer at the University of Wollongong, attended a launch of the campaign in Dubbo this week, where she co-facilitated a panel discussion, together with Andy Saunders, while also tweeting the news.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Connect, reach out, and Heal Our Way – suicide prevention campaign launches in full click here.

From the launch at Dubbo. Photo: Shayne Connell. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Children sought for sore throat study

More than 1,000 children are being sought for a study to learn more about sore throats and how best to prevent them. Murdoch Children’s project lead Professor Andrew Steer said the study would investigate how many children got sore throats, what was the most common cause of a sore throat and how sore throats could change during different seasons of the year. The information collected will help inform how a vaccine could be used to prevent a wide range of illnesses caused by Strep A.

“Strep A is often responsible for mild infections like a sore throat, also called ‘strep throat’, and impetigo, which causes skin sores,” Professor Steer said. But when left untreated it can become life-threatening if the bacteria invades the body’s bloodstream, muscles or lungs, which can cause severe illnesses such as septicaemia, rheumatic heart disease and kidney disease.”

Strep A infections disproportionately affect young children, the elderly, pregnant women and Indigenous Australians. Rates of rheumatic heart disease among Indigenous populations in northern Australia are some of the highest in the world. There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Strep A and infection can only be treated with antibiotics. “This study is an important step towards helping inform how a vaccine could be used to prevent a wide range of illnesses caused by Strep A,” Professor Steer said.

To view the SCIMEX article Children sought for study into how to prevent sore throats in full click here.

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Celebrating motherhood and culture

Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri woman Mahlia McDonald nearly didn’t take part in The Mubal and Bali Photography Program, but she is glad she changed her mind. Now her work is part of a Wodonga exhibition featuring photographs of Aboriginal women and their children taken by Aboriginal women, celebrating motherhood and tradition.

A co-partnership between Wodonga TAFE and the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, the Mubal and Bali (Mums and Bubs) Photography Program aimed to bring Aboriginal women together to learn photography skills. It also provided a stepping stone back into the education system.  TAFE photography teacher Tania Martini said the 15-week program, in Victoria’s north-east, taught photography and editing skills while capturing images of mothers and children on country. “It was based on the concept of Aboriginal women around birthing, childhood, and motherhood,” she said.

To view the ABC News article Wodonga’s Mubal and Bali photography exhibition celebrates motherhood and culture in full click here.

This photo by Demelsa Wakefield was taken as part of the program that celebrates motherhood and culture.(Supplied: Mubal and Bali Photography Program). Image source: ABC News.

Medicare needed for prisoners

A NSW coroner has supported the idea of Medicare becoming available to Aboriginal inmates on a trial basis after a 44-year-old man died in custody from a preventable ear infection. Douglas “Mootijah” Shillingsworth, a Budjiti and Murrawarri man, died at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in February 2018 after an otitis media middle ear infection spread to his brain, causing sepsis and neurological injury.

In findings last week, Deputy State Coroner Joan Baptie said Mootijah’s “Mootijah’s death was the result of the systemic failures prevalent in the public health system, the custodial health system in NSW and the lack of identification and appreciation of this silent killer, otitis media. Whilst his manner of death was from natural causes, this was clearly precipitated by the failure to identify and treat his ear disease whilst in custody.”

Inmates in NSW cannot receive Medicare benefits because the Health Insurance Act prevents a health service from receiving Commonwealth funding if it also receives state funding. This means inmates are blocked from receiving a yearly Aboriginal health assessment, a screening that is intended to pick up chronic issues before they progress. No similar screening operates outside the Medicare system. Jeremy Styles from the Aboriginal Legal Service, who represented the family during the inquest, said any one of these Aboriginal health assessments would have documented, recorded and discovered Mootijah’s ear disease.

To read The Sydney Morning Herald article Coroner calls for Medicare for prisoners after Indigenous man dies of ear infection in full click here.

Ruby Dykes (left) and Fleur Magic Dennis, family members of Douglas “Mootijah” Shillingsworth, hug outside court on Friday. Photo: Dean Sewell. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Wounds conference speakers announced

After a temporary move online in 2020 due to COVID-related restrictions, Wounds Australia’s biannual wounds conference is returning to Sydney this September. To be held at the ICC Sydney from 14–17 September, the conference will bring together leading experts and clinicians to share their insights and experience in working with wounds.

Presentations in the program will explore this year’s theme: ‘Time to unite, time to heal, time to innovate’, with a special focus on Indigenous health care, in recognition of the need to close the gap between the quality of wound care provision in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Keynote addresses by James Charles and Lesley Salem will discuss Indigenous healthcare initiatives.

Wounds Australia Chair Hayley Ryan said, “As the peak body for wound prevention, diagnosis, treatment and healing in Australia, we are committed to ensuring that Australians receive the best possible wound care.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article Wounds Australia Conference — keynote speakers announced click here.

Image of leg being dressed from National Seniors Australia website.

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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