NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: AI helps detect heart disease in remote Australia

feature tile image ATSI man have echocardiogram; text 'AI has enormous potential for use in remote Australia to screen more people and catch heart ailments earlier'

The image in the feature tile is of a man in the Alice Springs Hospital undergoing an echocardiogram with the aid of artificial intellegience. Photo: Steven Schubert. Image source: the article ABC News article How artificial intelligence is helping to detect heart disease in remote Australia published by ABC News earlier today.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

AI helps detect heart disease in remote Australia

In a small room in the Alice Springs Hospital, Rhonda O’Keefe is giving a man an ultrasound on his heart, despite having no formal training to do so.  Ms O’Keefe is not a sonographer, she’s an Aboriginal Health Practitioner. She has some medical training, but not the two years of post-graduate study it takes to become a qualified sonographer.  Instead, Ms O’Keefe is being guided by artificial intelligence (AI) as she performs the echocardiogram, the ultrasound of the heart. The AI software prompts Ms O’Keefe on where she needs to hold the ultrasound probe, and how much pressure to apply, depending on what the echocardiogram is looking for. Her first attempt at performing the procedure was just two weeks ago, but already she is obtaining pictures that cardiologists can use for diagnosis.

It’s a remarkable achievement, according to Dr Angus Baumann, the only full-time cardiologist at the Alice Springs Hospital. Dr Baumann, who has been observing Ms O’Keefe’s training, said when he learned to conduct echocardiograms it took him months of practice to get usable images — despite already working as a specialist in the field after years of medical school. “With this technology, someone’s able to get usable images on their first go,” he said.

The images are uploaded to a cloud-based server, and then downloaded and analysed by cardiologists. who may be hundreds of kms away from the patient. Dr Baumann said he could see an enormous potential for the technology to be used in remote Indigenous clinics to try to screen more people and catch heart ailments earlier.

To view the ABC News article How artificial intelligence is helping to detect heart disease in remote Australia in full click here. You can also read a previous story, here, about the trial of this AI technology being run from the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service.

Aboriginal health practitioner Rhonda O'Keefe performs an echocardiogram as cardiologist Dr Angus Baumann observes

Aboriginal health practitioner Rhonda O’Keefe performs an echocardiogram as cardiologist Dr Angus Baumann observes

Closing health gap needs more than booze, crime control

In a letter to the Alice Springs News Editor, Dr Simon Quilty, who was formerly based at Alice Springs Hospital and is currently working with Purple House said: “While there is a lot of focus on alcohol, crime and violence in communities such as Alice Springs, it is the long-term, underlying issues that are the real problem here. We are definitely experiencing difficulty in attracting, retaining and housing health professionals right across the NT, addressing this issue in isolation of the greater social disparity only makes the problem worse.

When our patients do not have adequate housing, and are living in conditions that are extremely detrimental to the health, education and basic safety of their residents, this provides fertile grounds for youth disengagement, domestic violence and social disharmony. There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness that is a key contributing factor to the issues affecting these communities and this has been exacerbated by the social fallout after COVID which has resulted in the cessation of many social programs that previously supported many people, particularly youth, in these communities.

How does it look to our patients when doctors and nurses are provided with accommodation, when they are sleeping in shifts so they can fit in the increasing number of people needing basic shelter? Extreme disparity exists even within our Aboriginal health workforce. Alice Springs Hospital Aboriginal Liaison Officers, who provide interpreting services essential to the delivery of health care to our patients, are the lowest paid interpreters in the country. These are essential health workers, who speak many dialects, and the value of their skills must be equitable with interpreter salaries for government services for immigrants to Australia.

To view the Closing health gap needs more than booze, crime control article published in the Australian Rural & Regional News in full click here.

Dr Simon Quilty checking female ATSI women with stethoscope

Dr Simon Quilty with patient in Alice Springs. Image source: Stephanie Zillman, ABC News.

Community Hubs based on ACCHO model

Genuine community engagement is required to deliver equitable outcomes for people living in rural and remote Australia, according to Mark Burdack, CEO of the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia (the Foundation). The Foundation has a proposed policy for Community Hubs in rural areas, which Mr Burdac describes as “a one-stop-shop for services that are engaged in addressing the social determinants of health”.

Similar to the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health (ACCHO) model, Community Hubs would be funded by both state and commonwealth governments, and led and governed by communities, he says. The ACCHO sector has shown us how we can effectively support communities and merge health promotion, prevention and intervention using multi-jurisdictional funding models. We have the capacity and models to do things differently in rural and remote health if there is a will to do so.

But this requires decision makers to recognise that rural and remote people have the knowledge, skills and capacity to create more equitable access to healthcare, and more equitable health outcomes, if they receive the right support and investment needed to lead that change.

To view the Croakey Health Media article How Community Hubs could contribute to better health for rural and remote Australians in full click here.

group of smiling 7 ATSI youth & The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia logo

Image source: The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia website.

New oral health education resources for mob

For the last three years, the FDI World Dental Federation has used World Oral Health Day on 20 March to campaign for everyone around the world to ‘Be Proud of Your Mouth’. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults continue to have poorer oral health than non-Indigenous Australians. Due to the poorer oral health outcomes of First Nation peoples, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) embarked on the development of the culturally appropriate oral health education resources. On World Oral Health Day this week the ADA was pleased to launch these resources as part of its new Mob Smiles initiative.

According to Indigenous dental practitioners the available resources for use with children and adults in Australia do not resonate with this target population. The goal of the Mob Smiles resources is to develop oral health education kits purposely developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults. Poor oral health can affect individual quality of life and exacerbate chronic health conditions. Unfortunately access to affordable, and culturally appropriate dental care is difficult for many Indigenous Australians. The resources aim to provide education and oral health information in a culturally safe manner.

The suite of oral health resources consists of posters, flyers and factsheets for various ages including toddlers, teenagers, pregnant women and the elderly. The multiple resources provide education in caring for oral health and details on hygiene, diet and scheduling dental visits.

To view the Australian Dental Association article ADA Mob Smiles released on World Oral Health Day in full click here. You can also find more information about Mob Smiles here and World Oral Health Day here.

Medicare cards coming soon to the myGov app

Australians will soon be able to add their Medicare card to the digital wallet in the myGov app.

The new myGov app, available here, was released last year. The app has a digital wallet where people can securely store some government digital cards and certificates. People can already use the wallet to store their Centrelink concession and health care cards.

The new digital Medicare card in the myGov app will look similar to Medicare cards in the Express Plus Medicare app, available here and physical cards.

The myGov app has features to protect against fraud and theft of all items in the myGov wallet. Medicare cards and Centrelink concession and health care cards have:

  • an animated hologram to show the card is not a screenshot
  • a QR code that can be scanned to confirm the card is genuine and valid
  • the date and time of when the card was last updated at the bottom of the screen.

If a person is no longer eligible for Medicare, the card will be automatically removed from their myGov app.

When a person’s Medicare card expires, it’ll be replaced automatically in their myGov wallet if they’re still eligible.

Accepting a digital Medicare card and scanning the QR code is optional, you don’t have to accept it if you don’t want to. You can still verify a Medicare card in the same way you do now.

Scanning QR codes

You scan the code using the myGov app on your device. You don’t need to sign in to the app to scan the QR code.

You can find more information and instructions on how to scan the QR code on the myGov website here.

Further information will be provided when the Medicare card becomes available in the myGov app.

hand holding mobile phone with Australian Government myGovID

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Harmony Day’ obscures need for systemic change

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) is observed around the world on 21 March, yet in Australia it’s called ‘Harmony Day’. The change came about in 1999 at the order of the Howard government who sought to replace the IDERD and portray a unified multicultural society, one that did not need to actively combat racism. This aligned with the personal views of the PM John Howard, who always maintained that racism was not an inherent problem in Australia.

But critics have said the positively framed ‘Harmony Day’ intentionally obscures the need for systemic change. “It’s absurd,” said Professor Chelsea Watego. “[It’s] quite telling that this country still insists on erasing the reality of racial violence in this place. We have a health system that makes aspirations [to be] free of racism, without a strategy for achieving that. We have a Race Discrimination Act which successive governments have suspended specifically in relationship to Indigenous people, on multiple occasions. The parameters for prosecuting a race discrimination case in this country are so narrow, that so few get through. The name Harmony Day tells us about the ways in which this country and all of its institutions have refused to deal with the reality of racial violence.”

To view the NITV article It’s the International Day of Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Why does Australia call it ‘Harmony Day’? in full click here.
black & white photo of 1960 Sharpeville massacre protestors & 4 silhouettes jumping holding letters of the word 'harmony'

While the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorates the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, critics say Australia’s ‘Harmony Day’ obscures the need to fight systemic racism. Image source: NITV.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Dietitians Week 20–26 March 2023

Today is the third day of Dietitians Week 2023 and as part of raising awareness of the role and value of dietitians, today we are sharing a case study of Jenna Perry, a Graduate Accredited Practising Dietitian. Jenna is originally from Lutriwata (Tasmania), where she has Aboriginal ancestry on her father’s side of the family. Although there was a disconnect with culture growing up, Jenna says she was always passionate about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and advocating for health care that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people delivered in a way that strengthened cultural identity and cultural beliefs of health and wellbeing.

A Bachelor of Dietetics wasn’t offered in Jenna’s home state, so she decided to move away to the Sunshine Coast on Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi country. There she started a Bachelor of Nutrition before transferring over into the Bachelor of Dietetics. While Jenna says she loved studying for a Bachelor of Dietetics, there was minimal education on cultural humility or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through a strength-based lens. Because of this Jenna was very grateful to attend the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (AIHA) Health Fusion Challenge and complete a placement at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH).

To view the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) article My Journey into Dietetics Jenna Perry in full click here.

portrait shot of Jenna Perry & text 'My Journey into Dietetics Jenna Perry'

Image source: IAHA website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *