NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Climate change and First Nations health

The image in the feature tile is from the Croakey Health Media article Governments urged to act on greenwashing, as COP27 puts spotlight on health and climate justice published on Thursday 10 November 2022.

Climate change and First Nations health

Many of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (more commonly referred to as Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, or COP27) events are putting a focus on climate justice and health-related issues, including air pollution, extreme heat, effective climate and health communications, food insecurity, the role of psychology, disaster responses, and the experiences of countries in building climate-resilient and low-carbon health systems.

First Nations people, academics and representatives of Doctors for the Environment Australia and the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) are attending COP27, including proud Gumbaynggirr nyami woman Amba-Rose Atkinson, from the mid-north coast of NSW. Ms Atkinson said “I join the largest contingent of First Nations Peoples from all over the world, to advocate and fight for Country. Representation is an important first step; however, we must now strive for an empowered voice and the redistribution of asymmetric power structures. It is time global leaders and governments recognise that First Nations Peoples and Knowledges are powerful solution-oriented forces that need to be heard, respected and empowered, for the benefit of Country and all the biodiversity that exists within Country.”

Ms Atkinson referred to the work Professor Kerry Arabena, a proud Meriam woman from the Torres Strait Islands, “who has written about how destroying the relationship between First Nations peoples and Country destroys our holistic health and wellbeing; Country is our life source, we are inextricably linked to Country, and Country to us. My presence in Egypt is to uphold these teachings and advocate alongside many other First Nations peoples and reinforce the message, now is the time to act!”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Governments urged to act on greenwashing, as COP27 puts spotlight on health and climate justice in full click here.

Gumbaynggirr nyami Amba-Rose Atkinson joins First Nations Peoples from around the world in Eqypt for COP27. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Powerful 2022 Dr Charles Perkins Oration

As the world watches COP27 negotiations, it’s timely that Larissa Baldwin-Roberts, a Widjabul Wia-bul woman from the Bundjalung Nations, and longstanding campaigner for climate justice has delivered the 2022 Dr Charles Perkins Oration at the University of Sydney. In a wide-ranging address Ms Baldwin-Roberts paid tribute to generations of First Nations activists and community mobilisers, and urged support for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

She said: “If you want to understand how to deal with the climate crisis, we must first situate ourselves within an Indigenous worldview. To do that, we need to be thinking about three generations behind you, and three generations in front of you. Make decisions that will benefit the people in front of you, and take lessons from the people behind you. Governments can’t do that, but the leadership from our communities can.”

Ms Baldwin-Roberts wants the wider Australian community to recognise the crises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face, not just climate, but the issues with housing, guns in remote communities, over-policing, deaths in custody, health. She said people need to understand that breadth of context.

To read the Croakey Health Media article Powerful oration builds on legacy of Dr Charles Perkins with a vision for climate justice, accountable governments and community leadership in full click here.

RACGP Top End visit ‘important step’

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) leaders have joined NT General Practice Education (NTGPE) representatives on a four-day of the Top End in an effort to strengthen long-term training in the region and find solutions for rural and remote GP shortages. RACGP President-Elect Dr Nicole Higgins and Vice President Dr Bruce Willett are part of a group that will meet with doctors and other health professionals, as well as traditional owners, Aboriginal Elders and key local figures, in seven different NT remote communities from 7–10 November 2022.

Dr Higgins told newsGP it has been a ‘humbling privilege’ to visit the communities and meet with the lands’ traditional owners and gain first-hand experience of the region’s healthcare challenges. “They have welcomed the RACGP as the new mob who will be delivering GP training in their communities,’ she said. ‘We have also met with registrars, supervisors and the teams that support them – cultural mentors and educators, remote nurses and practice staff. We have listened and they have been heard.”

To view the newsGP article RACGP Top End visit an ‘important step’ in full click here.

RACGP President Elect Dr Nicole Higgins and Vice President Dr Bruce Willett during their visit to remote communities in the NT. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Koories need radiotherapy too

NSW’s New Chief Cancer Officer, Professor Tracey O’Brien, is visiting Southern NSW Local Health District (LHD). Professor O’Brien said of her visit “NSW is recognised as a global leader in cancer care, with survival rates among the best in the world, but there is still much more we can do to lessen the impact of cancer. However, cancer continues to impact too many people in our community with one in two people across NSW diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.”

“There are also communities that continue to experience poorer cancer outcomes, including Aboriginal communities and people living in regional rural and remote NSW. “While cancer survival for Aboriginal people continues to improve, there is still a disproportionate gap in cancer outcomes.  Aboriginal people are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, are likely to be younger when they are diagnosed and are more likely to die of cancer than non-Aboriginal people. Closing the gap in cancer outcomes for Aboriginal communities is a key priority of the NSW Cancer Plan.”

The NSW Cancer Plan says the reason for inequities in cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people are multiple and complex, including:

  • Fear and capacity issues around leaving community or country for treatment and lack of culturally safe and responsive care are also major barriers for Aboriginal people to access health services.
  • Fear and stigma about cancer, due to a lack of understanding about the disease, can prevent Aboriginal people from participating in cancer screening or having symptoms checked. This can lead to later diagnosis causing poorer outcomes.
  • Aboriginal people and communities are also often dealing with complex personal and familial issues and lower levels of health literacy, which impact their health seeking behaviours.
  • These barriers can also contribute to higher prevalence of certain lifestyle behaviours, such as tobacco use and alcohol consumption which can contribute towards higher cancer incidence.

To view The Beagle article Koories need radiotherapy too: where is our facility in the new hospital? in full click here. In the below video Aboriginal Cancer Health Practitioner Lynne Thorne describes the barriers Aboriginal cancer patients in SA and NT face in accessing radiotherapy. These barriers are similar across Australia.

Skin conditions among urban-living young mob

A systematic analysis in Pediatric Dermatology that included all relevant studies published since 1990 indicates that many urban-living Indigenous children and young people in high-income countries are burdened with atopic dermatitis (or eczema) and bacterial skin infections (including skin sores). Investigators note that these conditions are intertwined, in that poorly managed atopic dermatitis predisposes to recurrent bacterial skin infections, and secondary infection of atopic dermatitis contributes to more severe disease. Both conditions adversely impact general health, school performance, and overall quality of life. Untreated bacterial skin infections can also lead to serious complications such as sepsis, kidney disease, and rheumatic heart disease.

In this recent analysis, current and severe symptoms of atopic dermatitis were more common in urban-living Indigenous children and young people compared with their non-Indigenous peers, with children having a higher prevalence than adolescents. Urban-living Indigenous children and young people also had a higher incidence of bacterial skin infections compared with their non-Indigenous peers.

To view the Mirage Science article Scientists examine rates of skin conditions among urban-living Indigenous children and young people in full click here.

Young students at the Redfern Jarjum College (RJC). Image source: RJC website.

Using practice data to find kidney disease webinar

At 7:30PM (AEST) Tuesday 15 November 2022, join Kidney Health Australia with GP Consultant, Dr Chris Bollen and General Practice Pharmacist, Mr Tim Perry as they discuss and show how to utilise your practice data to find evidence of chronic kidney disease. Using electronic clinical software as an example, learn how to collect practice data and analyse gaps in diagnosis and correctly stage chronic kidney disease. Learn how to develop a practice plan to identify patients at risk without a coded diagnosis, and create an individualised clinical action plan for a patient with chronic kidney disease.

RACGP CPDA 2 points per hour Activity # 367776 (pending approval)

If you have a Zoom account you can register here.

Image of diabetes educator with a patient. Image source: Moreton Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service’s Diabetes education webpage.

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