NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Telehealth review shows we could do better

feature tile - Dr assessing cut Aboriginal hand on computer screen; text 'telehealth a game changer for many First Nations people but review shows we could do better'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Telehealth a game changer: closing the gap in remote Aboriginal communities published in The Medical Journal of Australia on 31 March 2019.

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.

Telehealth review shows we could do better

Telehealth has been a game changer for many First Nations people globally, including in Australia. It has allowed First Nations people to access health care close to home – whether that’s screening for health issues, diagnosing illness or monitoring existing conditions. It has done this while minimising exposure to COVID. Telehealth uses information and communication technology to deliver health care at a distance. In Australia, this is mainly via phone and video consultations. Telehealth can be delivered by any health-care provider including doctors, nurses, and allied health or ancillary health providers. Telehealth is not a complete replacement for in-person care. But it can be used instead of some face-to-face appointments.

ACCHOs have traditionally provided primary (initial) health care and some specialist care for First Nations people in Australia. Telehealth allows them to provide a greater range of specialist services. So, this allows First Nations people access to care close to home, with optional support from an Indigenous health worker.

A recent review of telehealth for First Nations people – in Australia, Canada, NZ and the US – shows we could do better. Unreliable internet access, services designed without meaningful First Nations’ input, and concerns about establishing rapport with health workers were some of the concerns.

To view The National Tribune article Telehealth has much to offer First Nations people. But technical glitches and a lack of rapport can get in the way in full click here.

stethoscope on wooden surface wrapped around mobile phone with vector stethoscope on its screen

Image source: The University of Queensland Australia, UQ News webpage.

NT-specific solution to health staff shortages

Finding solutions to the dire challenges facing the health workforce in rural and remote areas to better support Territorians, particularly First Nations people, is the focus of the Better Health Futures Symposium being held in Alice Springs today. The Symposium will bring together the diverse perspectives and experience of influential leaders, rural and remote health experts, educators and researchers to address health challenges spanning the NT.

For instance high staff turnover, high job vacancy rates and low staff retention resulting in critical staff shortages. Plus a decline in Aboriginal health practitioners and international medical graduates, clinic closures, clients not visiting a GP and lacking care plans for chronic conditions. The Symposium is presented by Charles Darwin University (CDU) in partnership with Menzies School of Health Research, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) and NT Health.

AMSANT Acting Chief Executive Officer Dr Donna Ah Chee said the Symposium will help address major health issues, such as the life expectancy of First Nations people in the NT. “While the life expectancy gap in the Northern Territory is still unacceptable there has been substantial improvement over the past two decades, with a nine-year improvement in life expectancy for men and almost five years for women,” Dr Ah Chee said. “Our sector has been critical in leading these gains. However the progress we have made will stall if we do not urgently address the workforce crisis we are now facing. Many of our services are facing severe shortages of health professionals, leading to reduced services and temporary clinic closures.”

To view the CDU article Health workforce lift for NT in Alice Springs in full click here.

3 ATSI participants (2 young females, 1 male) at 2023 Better Futures Symposium, Alice Springs

The 2023 Better Health Futures Symposium in Alice Springs aims to build a robust rural and remote health workforce in, and for, the NT. Image source: CDU Australia News webpage.

Emerging leaders hope to make communities better

Emerging Indigenous leaders from across the Big Rivers region are among a group of 24 participants of the 2023 First Circles Leadership Program. The program aims to build leadership skills and bring new voices from remote communities to the Territory conversation on matters affecting Aboriginal Territorians.

This year, education, health services, infrastructure, housing and telecommunications will be among the topics discussed at the regional workshops, which take place in Darwin, Katherine, Nhulunbuy and Alice Springs until November. The year-long series of intensive workshops culminate in the group addressing all Ministers in the Northern Territory Government Cabinet, presenting ideas on policies, projects and initiatives that could positively impact their communities.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Selena Uibo, a First Circles graduate herself, said he had learned firsthand how important this program was in “fostering the next generation of Aboriginal leaders. The program gave me an invaluable opportunity to hone my leadership skills and to work with Government at a grassroots level,” she said. “I look forward to supporting new voices to join the conversation about how to improve lives in remote communities.”

To view the Katherine Times article Emerging leaders hope to ‘make communities better for everyone’ click here.

2023 First Circles Leadership Program participant Leon Kinthari from Wadeye

Leon Kinthari from Wadeye said he joined the 2023 First Circles Leadership Program in a bid to build his skills. Image source: Katherine Times.

World-first framework for remote nursing

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) congratulates the Government, the National Rural Health Commissioner and all the professional bodies that have worked together to release the National Rural and Remote Nursing Generalist Framework 2023–2027. This Framework supports registered nurses to work to their full ability in rural and remote healthcare settings.

“We see this as a step in the right direction in building a multidisciplinary model of care in rural and remote settings,” said Alliance Chief Executive Susanne Tegen. “We would like to congratulate and we appreciate the work of Minister Emma McBride and Assistant Minister Ged Kearney in working with grassroots nurses, medical and allied health professionals – including dentists, paramedics and pharmacists – to bring sustainable solutions to the healthcare inequities seen in rural Australia,” said Ms Tegen.

The Alliance advocates for the Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS) model, which is an evidence-based and community-led policy and funding solution to support primary care where markets are failing or communities are without medical and healthcare services. It aims to overcome the professional, financial and social barriers to working rurally. The Framework aligns with the Alliance’s advocacy efforts to bring this multidisciplinary model of care to rural communities and we seek government funding and support to promote PRIM-HS nationwide.

You can view the NRHA media release More support for nurses under world-first framework for rural and remote nursing in full click here.

Fewer kids in detention but more support needed

The number of young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system has fallen in the past five years. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be over-represented under youth justice supervision in every state and territory, according to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Indigenous people aged 10-17 are about 24 times more likely to be in detention than other young people. On an average day in 2021-22, almost two-thirds (60%) of people aged 10-17 in detention were Indigenous compared with almost one-third (32%) of adults in prison, the report found. Palawa elder and Amnesty International Australia Indigenous advisor Rodney Dillon said the underlying causes of poverty and inequality needed to be addressed.

Arrernte/Luritja woman Catherine Liddle is the CEO of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the peak body that represents Indigenous children in out-of-home care. Ms Liddle said research has consistently shown Indigenous children were more likely than other Australian children to be in out-of-home care, which is a major contributing factor to coming into contact with the criminal justice system. “What we need to do is be putting the dollars into early intervention and looking at ways that we strengthen families so that children don’t hit child protection systems, but rather have the supports that they and their families need,” she said.

To view The Islander article Fewer kids in detention but more support needed click here.

children's hands on bars - one set of hands are Aboriginal

Image source: Law Society of NSW Journal Online.

GRAMS launch competition for No Tobacco Day

As World No Tobacco Day approaches, the Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) has thought of a unique approach to tackle smoking in the community with a recipe competition and free cookbook. GRAMS has launched the recipe competition to coincide with this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme of We Want Food Not Tobacco, and are seeking the community’s best recipe entries.

The competition began on Tuesday 7 March and will end on Friday 21 April, with a Tackling Indigenous Smoking Cookbook to be released on Wednesday 31 May during World No Tobacco Day. GRAMS is asking the community to ditch the smokes and get their recipes into the competition, with weekly prizes for the winning recipe. Recipes include family favourites, healthy snacks, sauces and traditional food.

Tackling Indigenous Smoking acting co-ordinator Brent Walker said anyone could submit a recipe and he hoped to see a variety of healthy, traditional food from the local area such as bush fruits, herbs and spices. Mr Walker said GRAMS took up the idea to raise awareness that cigarettes were not that important and to send a message to give up smoking. “It’s making parents and adults aware that providing food for their kids is more important than buying smokes, they’re getting expensive and kids are going to school hungry,” he said.

To view The West Australian article Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service launch recipe competition for World No Tobacco Day in full click here.

GRAMS employees Brent Walker, Levi Thorne and Neau Simpson

GRAMS employees Brent Walker, Levi Thorne and Neau Simpson. Photo: Tamati Smith, Regional Hub. Image source: The West Australian.

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