NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Funding to improve cancer outcomes for mob

feature tile vector image ATSI woman having chemo; text 'NACCHO Chair welcomes funding to improve cancer survival rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples'

The image in the feature tile is from the Australian Government Cancer Australia Our Mob and Cancer website Treating cancer in our mob webpage, available here.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is 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.

Funding to improve cancer outcomes for mob

Earlier today NACCHO issued a media release, reproduced in part below:

Funding to improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Cancer has overtaken cardiovascular disease as the major cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Studies show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples receive less cancer treatment and poorer quality of treatment even after adjusting for patient factors.

With increasing remoteness, cancer survival rates decrease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Donnella Mills, the Chair of NACCHO, “welcomes the announcement by Minister Butler today of around $197m over the next few years to address the substantial gap. Avoidable mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is over three times that of other Australians and mortality gap between the two populations continues to widen. This demonstrates the work to improve prevention and care in Australia over the past two decades has had very little impact on our communities.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be diagnosed with many cancers, including liver, cervical and lung cancers.

Pat Turner, Chief Executive Officer of NACCHO comments, “NACCHO has been developing the case for this additional funding over the last couple of years including surveys across the sector, gathering data and case studies. The funding will provide programs to support cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment and wrap around support for community members. Funds will also be used to create culturally safe referral pathways for cancer diagnosis and treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

“We want to see cancer outcomes improve for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This funding is a crucial step. NACCHO will continue to work with Governments and stakeholders under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to ensure we meet the needs of the ACCHO sector,” continues Pat Turner.

NACCHO recognises that palliative care, related to cancer and other health issues, remains unfunded in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector. Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to die with dignity, on their Country. NACCHO will continue to advocate for palliative care funding in the ACCHO sector.

You can view the NACCHO media release Funding to improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in full here.

tile: NACCHO logo & text 'Media Release - funding to improve cancer outcomes for ATSI peoples'

Pharmacy scholarships recipients announced

Today, NACCHO also issued a media release, reproduced in part below, regarding the announcement of the NACCHO 2023 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship recipients.

NACCHO 2023 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship recipients announced

NACCHO announces six successful recipients of the 2023 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship, which is proudly supported by a grant from Sanofi Australia. The Scholarship provides subsidy and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students and aims to build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacist workforce.

2023 scholarship recipient, Jai-ann Eastaughffe commented, “I believe this scholarship will allow me to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in health and particularly within the Pharmacy industry. The mentors and connections I make will be valuable as I enter my last year of the degree and prepare to enter the workforce. The scholarship will also help financially, as I complete my final 6 weeks of placement”.

The scholarship program, which began in 2022 has been expanded to six recipients and extended till 2025, demonstrating Sanofi’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. “Our warmest congratulations to this year’s recipients, the judging panel and the team at NACCHO for their ongoing leadership of this important scholarship program. Building the skills of future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists is a crucial part of ensuring that pharmacy and pharmacists can support culturally safe care. We have been enormously impressed by NACCHO and the judging panel’s leadership of this program and couldn’t be more pleased to confirm our expanded, support” stated, Karen Hood, Sanofi Australia and New Zealand Country Lead.

Out of a total of 27,000 pharmacists in Australia only 85 identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, representing just 0.3% of the pharmacist workforce. Currently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the health sector account for only 1.8% of the total health workforce, despite accounting for 3.2% of the Australian population.

This disparity impacts patients, policy and pharmacists themselves and this scholarship is a step in the right direction to increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people graduating from pharmacy studies and entering the workforce.

Dr Dawn Casey, NACCHO Deputy CEO said, “this year’s scholarship recipients are impressive young Aboriginal students. We are so proud to provide these opportunities and to ensure increased representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists in the health sector.”

Associate Professor Faye McMillan, a proud Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman), Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner and pharmacist said, ” I am so delighted that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy scholarship program has been extended and expanded. This further reflects NACCHO’s commitment to increasing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy workforce.”

NACCHO 2023 Winners: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship:

The 2023 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship winners are:

  1. Bryony Forrest, Darumbal/Kanolu
  2. Chelsea Corbett, Lutruwita
  3. Jai-ann Eastaughffe
  4. James Sowter, Proud Yorta Yorta man
  5. Jason Coleman
  6. Macy Poke

You can view the media release NACCHO 2023 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship recipients announced in full on the NACCHO website here.tile text 'NACCHO ATSI Pharmacist Scholarship recipients announced'

New access model for bowel cancer screening kits

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) has developed a new alternative access to kits model in a bid to remove barriers and strengthen GPs’ role in the screening process. Launched as part of a phased rollout that began late last year, the new initiative is seeking to encourage people who have never screened or are overdue for screening to participate in the program. It means healthcare providers can now bulk order NBCSP kits and issue them directly to eligible patients during an appointment, explain why the test is important and demonstrate how to do it.

Professor of Primary Care Cancer Research, Jon Emery, said the updated model is an important initiative which will hopefully lead to GPs being more engaged in promoting and delivering the screening program. “GPs can identify under-screened patients and provide them with the kit directly. If we can reach 60% participation in the NBCSP, we could save an additional 84,000 lives by 2040.” According to the NBCSP, patients are more likely to complete the test after discussing the process with a trusted healthcare provider. If detected early, more than 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated, with screen-detected bowel cancers less likely to cause death than bowel cancers diagnosed in people never invited to screen in the NBCSP.

The alternative access model also provides an opportunity to engage with known under-screened cohorts, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse populations, rural and remote communities, and men aged 50–55. The new model builds on the National Indigenous Bowel Screening Pilot, which saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in bowel screening increase from 27% to almost 40% among the pilot participants.

To view the newsGP article GPs now able to bulk order bowel cancer screening kits in full click here.

$500m to reduce Australia’s lung cancer burden

On a day of health announcements, Health Minister Mark Butler has thrown over $500m at cancer care in a bid to “reduce the burden of lung cancer in Australia and drive equitable cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. Mr Butler announced $263.8m for a national lung cancer screening program, the first new national cancer screening program in nearly 20 years. Starting by July 2025, the program will target high-risk individuals to detect lung cancer in its early stages to increase the likelihood of successful treatment and improve lung cancer outcomes.

“Lung cancer is Australia’s biggest cancer killer, and we know that early detection is key to improving survival rates,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO of Cancer Australia in response to the announcement. “Australia’s new National Lung Cancer Screening Program [co-designed with First Nations people] is the among the first in the world, representing a significant step forward in the global effort to tackle lung cancer and positioning Australia as a world leader in this area.” More than 8,600 Australians died from lung cancer in 2022, and the burden is even greater for First Nations people, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed than non-Indigenous Australians, and twice as likely to die from it. A report published by Cancer Australian in 2020 showed that targeting high-risk people was the most clinically effective and cost-effective way to roll out the program.

In addition, Mr Butler announced nearly $238.5m to support achieving equity in overall cancer outcomes for First Nations people. “This investment will build the capacity and capability of the Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) sector to support cancer care needs on the ground, tailored to local need and priorities; and ensure mainstream cancer care services are culturally safe and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said the Department of Health and Aged Care press release.”

To view The Medical Republic article Lung cancer gets a half-billion-dollar boost article in full click here.

cross-section of lungs medical training model

Image source: Curtin University website.

Healthcare access: a harsh reality for the homeless

On any given night in Australia, more than 122,000 people experience homelessness, according to Mission Australia. A good portion of these people rely on couch surfing, loved ones, and temporary accommodation like hostels, caravan parks or cars. But some don’t have any shelter, resulting in them sleeping rough on the streets. In Sydney’s CBD, there are 100s who sleep on the streets. It’s this group that the Homeless Health Service aims to support directly, with their multidisciplinary team made up of nurses, doctors, allied health staff, Aboriginal health workers, and peer support workers.

Erin, the Nursing Unit Manager, has been in this field for over a decade now. “Many of the people we come across in our work are really untrusting of outsiders. And you can’t blame them. These systems, whether it be government, health or housing, can be really traumatising to navigate — especially those from marginalised groups and people who have been thrown to the curb their whole lives,” she explains.

For a man that’s sleeping on the streets in his 50s, chances are he would have been brought up in some kind of institutional out-of-home care and have experienced incarceration. Because they’re more vulnerable statistically speaking, women tend to find crisis accommodation like hostels, couch surfing or cars. You don’t usually see many end up sleeping on the streets. Women over 50 are the fastest growing demographic experiencing homelessness. And a lot of that comes down to domestic and family violence, a lack of financial literacy and/or security, and other factors. But accessing adequate healthcare remains a challenge for many of them too.

The most common health concerns that she and the team come across among the homeless include ill management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, dental, seizure disorders and occasionally (but increasingly commonly) cancer. Age-related illnesses are also becoming increasingly noticeable, given the mortality gap for people experiencing homelessness is between 10 to 30 years higher than the general population.

To view the Mamamia article Mamamia Investigates: The harsh reality of accessing healthcare when homeless. in full click here.

image of first aid being giving to homeless person, with AHW watching on

Image source: Mamamia website.

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.

International Day of the Midwife – 5 May

Each year, the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) lead global celebrations for International Day of the Midwife (IDM) on 5 May. This year’s IDM theme is Together again: from evidence to reality, with ICM acknowledging its upcoming 33rd ICM Triennial Congress, where the global midwife community will come together for the first time in more than five years. The theme also honours the efforts of midwives and professional associations to action critical evidence such as the State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) 2021 report, which can lead towards meaningful change for the profession and women and families.

To celebrate International Day of the Midwife, the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal (ANMJ) shines the spotlight on inspirational midwives making a difference across the country. One such midwife is Melanie Briggs, Senior Midwife at Waminda South Coast Aboriginal Women’s Health and Welfare Corporation and manager of the Minga Gudjaga Birthing on Country (BOC) program.

A descendant of the Dharawal and Gumbaynggirr people, midwife Melanie Briggs runs the Minga Gudjaga (Mother and Baby) child and maternal health program and Birthing on Country at Waminda. The first endorsed Aboriginal midwife in NSW and a BOC advocate, she developed the first Aboriginal-led maternity model of care in Australia. “I wanted better outcomes for our mothers and babies and you achieve that by providing good quality services that the women will access and want to access,” Melanie recalls.

To view the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal (ANMJ) article Celebrating International Day of the Midwife – 5 May in full click here.

tile text '5 May 2023 - International Day of the Midwife - Together again: from evidence to reality'

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