NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Research to improve maternal and child health

feature tile, image ATSI baby held against mum's shoulder; text 'ATSI-led research to investigate how to improve First Nations maternal and child health'

The image in the feature tile is from the University of Queensland webpage Making a difference to First Nations mums and bubs published on 3 November 2023.

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.

Research to improve maternal and child health

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led team of medical and social health researchers has been tasked with investigating how to improve First Nations health and wellbeing during pregnancy, birth and the early years to help give more kids the best start to life.

The research team, led by UniSA clinical psychologist Associate Professor Yvonne Clark, a Kokatha/Wirangu woman, has been awarded $5m in Australian Government funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Assoc Prof Clark, who in addition to her role as a research professor at UniSA is also a Research Fellow at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), is one of seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chief investigators involved in the project.

To view the University of SA article $5 million for Aboriginal-led team to improve maternal and child health research in full click here.

In the below video researchers and health professionals explain the Baby Coming You Ready? project, which will become part of a much broader research project investigating how to improve First Nations wellbeing during pregnancy, birth and the early years.

Have your say on Health Technology Assesment

Have your say on HTA – Getting involved with the funding of medicines and medical services

NACCHO is hosting a webinar ‘Have your say on HTA – Getting involved with the funding of medicines and medical services’ in conjunction with the Department of Health and Aged Care’s Office of Health Technology Assessment.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access medicines and medical services every day many of these are funded through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS). Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is the process that decides whether these items or services are covered by the government or not.

The webinar aims to raise awareness within the ACCHO sector on ways to support access to medicines and medical services in the HTA process. Understanding how this process works can help you and your communities to better provide ‘real world’ evidence that informs government committees’ decisions.

All ACCHO sector staff are invited to participate in this free online event. For your convenience, the webinar will be held twice in case you can’t attend one.

Panel members include NACCHO representatives and experts from PBS and MBS committees.

For more details and to register to attend the webinar, please click on the preferred date below:

If you have any questions, please contact Mike Stephens via email here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

tile NACCHO logo; text 'Have your say on HTA - Getting involved with the funding of medicines and medical services - webinar funded by NACCHO'

UN Chief: ‘Let us learn from Indigenous peoples’

In his address, yesterday, marking the opening of the 2023 session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), UN Secretary-General António Guterres drew attention to the ways that Indigenous peoples are denied their human rights, and saluted them for the pioneering role they play in efforts to protect nature and preserve biodiversity.

Indigenous peoples “hold many of the solutions to the climate crisis and are guardians of the world’s biodiversity” said Mr. Guterres. The UN chief acknowledged that Indigenous peoples struggle to adapt to the climate crisis, and face the exploitation of their resource-rich territories, eviction from their ancestral lands, and physical attacks.

“The United Nations is committed to keep promoting the rights of Indigenous Peoples in policies and programming at all levels and amplifying your voices,” declared the UN chief. “Let us learn from and embrace the experiences of indigenous peoples.”

To view the article ‘Let us learn from indigenous peoples’, UN chief declares, published yesterday on the United Nations website’s UN News webpage, in full click here.

ATSI boy lighting grass fire - a cool fire land management technique

Image source: Traditional Land Management Using Fire: How First Nations Peoples Manage & Care for Country webpage of website.

Housing: an important health determinant

A broken promise is of no consequence when $254b for tax relief could be used for deteriorating health, social, aged and disability services, and for educational revival, writes Dr David Shearman AM, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Adelaide University and the co-founder of Doctors for the Environment Australia.

The health of Australians is deteriorating. Good health is not only what our doctors and nurses can offer us but according to the World Health Organisation, our health also depends on many non-medical factors such as the conditions in which we are born, grow, work, live and age. Health is also affected by economic policies and political systems.

Currently, the health of many Australians, particularly the Indigenous people, is affected by all these factors, the most important today being housing and education and both could be quickly improved by increased funding commencing immediately. Housing is a human right and under international law, to be adequately housed means having secure tenure.

This provides a sense of safety, emotional stability and a better chance of employment. In our rich country, the level of public housing has hardly increased in more than 20 years, during which our population has increased by about 30%.

 To view the Sydney Sun article Deteriorating health, housing and education upshot of inequality in full click here.

Walpiri Transient Camp, Katherine, NT - tin shed

Walpiri Transient Camp, Katherine, NT. Photo: Dr Simon Quilty. Image source: ANU.

Mental health workforce investment required

Two psychologist associations are urging the government to allow provisional psychologists to offer a government rebate. They say that would instantly add 8,000 workers to Medicare, making mental health treatment more affordable amid soaring cost of living pressures.

Others argue the measure would inflate a Medicare system that already poorly targets people in most need, and the federal government needs to instead urgently invest in higher education pathways and regional incentives to address structural problems with workforce shortages. Psychiatrist Ian Hickie, co-director of health and policy at the Brain and Mind Centre,  cautioned against adding more psychologists at a lower level of training, saying “What we need is more clinical psychologists … we need to make sure those who really need clinical care, get clinical care.”

His centre’s budget submission calls for at least 200 additional Commonwealth-supported university places for clinical psychology each year over the next four years. Those places could be tied to servicing areas of need such as rural and regional centres, youth and Indigenous mental health, and services for multicultural communities, he said.

To view the WA Today article Pay for therapy or rent? The heartbreaking mental health choice faced by Emily’s clients in full click here.

2 ATSI men, one carrying an Aboriginal flag, walking in front of brick wall painted with Aboriginal flag

Image source: SBS News article ‘Make Indigenous mental health a national priority’.

Social determinants that increase jail risk

You might have heard the phrase “social determinants of health”. It’s the idea that social factors – such as poverty, access to education, where you live and whether you face discrimination – have a huge influence on your health and life expectancy. These determinants explain why worse health outcomes persist for some groups of people, despite incredible advances in medical care.

Quantifying what social factors increase a person’s chance of ending up in prison, can be used to improve policy and reduce the harms and costs of incarceration.

While crime rates in Australia are decreasing and governments have committed to reducing reoffending, the incarceration rates of certain groups of people remain shamefully high. These groups include Indigenous people, those wit mental and cognitive disability,  and people experiencing addition and homelessness.

Eight factors have have been identified as “social determinants of justice”. Your chance of ending up in prison is greatly increased by:

  1. having been in out of home (foster) care
  2. receiving a poor school education
  3. being Indigenous
  4. having early contact with police
  5. having unsupported mental health and cognitive disability
  6. problematic alcohol and other drug use
  7. experiencing homelessness or unstable housing
  8. coming from or living in a disadvantaged location

The more of these factors you experience, the more likely you are to be incarcerated and reincarcerated.

To read The Conversation article The social determinants of justice: 8 factors that increase your risk of imprisonment in full click here.

student protestors with sign Aboriginal flag & text 'most incarcerated people on earth'

Image source: ABC News.

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