- Birthing on Country: healthy mums and bubs
- Cost-of-living pressures hit remote communities
- Leadership award for health researcher
- Teen sleep health program could change lives
- Better cardiac care measures for mob
- Sector Jobs
- Key Date – Infant Mental Health Awareness Week – 13–19 June 2023
The image in the feature tile is of baby Luke from the article Birthing on Country results prove the gap can be closed. Now such services need to expand published by Croakey Health Media on Friday 11 June 2021. Photo: Kristi Watego.
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.
Birthing on Country: healthy mums and bubs
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been safely giving birth on country for more than 60,000 years. And there’s a growing body of evidence that when cultural safety is embedded into care for expectant mums and new bubs they are healthier and much more likely to thrive.
The president of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINM) Marni Tuala, a Bundjalung woman, says Birthing on Country is the optimal model of care for pregnant First Nations women. “What that means – and I think there is some confusion around what is Birthing on Country – is being cared for throughout your pregnancy journey by a midwife who is known to you in ways that meet your cultural needs,” she says.
Almost nine in 10 Indigenous babies have a healthy birthweight, with numbers steady between 2005 and 2020, according to a recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report. The study explores the demographics, risk factors and health outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies and is the first of its kind in more than 15 years.
It found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers are increasingly attending antenatal care, which is an important part of ensuring babies are born healthy and strong, however reduced access in disadvantaged or remote areas contributes to poorer health outcomes. Birthing on Country is an international movement that aims to return control of birthing services to Indigenous communities to enable a healthy start to life. Its agenda relates to system-wide reform and is perceived as an important opportunity in ‘closing the gap’.
To view the Health Times article Birthing on Country leads to healthy mothers and babies in full click here. The below video is from The Conversation article Birthing on Country could deliver healthier babies and communities available here.
Cost-of-living pressures hit remote communities
A bunch of kids crowd around an old Indigenous lady, waiting for their supper. Tonight, it is kangaroo tail, cooked on campfire coals in aluminium foil. “One each, all the kids get one each,” the old lady, Aunty Dulcie Nanala, tells the kids, handing out pieces of flesh from her position seated next to the campfire.
Feeding a swarm of hungry kids is a daily experience for Aunty Dulcie, who has lived her whole life in Balgo, a remote Indigenous community and former Catholic mission in WA’s Kimberley region. Aunty Dulcie has an enormous number of people staying with her in her rundown, three-bedroom house, including her mother who is in her 90s. Aunty Dulcie, who receives a disability pension said “Cost a lot of money to keep buying food for each day … the cost of things is getting more and more.” Not every family in Balgo is able to feed their family, Aunty Dulcie notes.
Balgo has one shop, the Wirrimanu Community Store which stocks most things one might need in a remote community, including a wide selection of food (at alarming prices). Most of the shop’s stock comes from Darwin, a trip of almost 1,500 kms on some of Australia’s most inhospitable roads, according to manager Peter Klein. “Freight costs, on average is about 30%, then there’s always a fuel levy on top of that, that’s currently at 25%,” he says. For Aunty Dulcie, government subsidies on freight to remote communities like hers would make a huge difference. “It should; the freight from the truck and from the planes, the government should help,” she says. “We want that to be cheaper. But it’s the freight — we’ve got to buy the freight.”
To view the ABC Business article Cost-of-living pressures hitting remote Indigenous Australians hard as freight price surges in full click here.
Leadership award for health researcher
Renowned kidney researcher and clinician Professor Jaquelyne Hughes from Flinders University has received the Cranlana leadership award from the Lowitja Research Institute for her groundbreaking and life-saving work. The proud Goemulgal ipeka (woman) belonging to the Wagadagam community on Mabuiag Island has committed her professional life to improving kidney health among Indigenous people. These communities face a significantly higher risk of kidney disease, with five times greater likelihood of developing it and four times higher chance of mortality compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.
Professor Hughes’ career has spanned two decades, championing a frontier in medicine that combines cultural and holistic knowledge with the clinical strengths of Indigenous medical professionals, marking a significant milestone in the field. Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health Professor Jonathan Craig said the Cranlana award is a singular honour of which Professor Hughes is unreservedly deserving.
“Professor Hughes exemplifies research excellence and the power of innovation – of truly engaging with community, listening to their needs, responding to their priorities, and applying her clinical and research skills through a cultural lens to transform health care, how it’s delivered, and how it’s received,” Professor Craig said. “As a result of her efforts, many hundreds of lives have been saved and improved, and that will grow to many thousands as her methods take hold and extend across Australia.”
To view the National Indigenous Times article Wagadagam woman’s leadership in health research honored with prestigious award in full click here.
Teen sleep health program could change lives
Adolescence is a sensitive life stage when emerging independence, changing social roles, excessive screen time, academic pressures, and significant biological changes can lead to emotional and behavioural problems. The current generation of teens is chronically sleep-deprived, something that can cause emotional regulation issues, risky behaviour and academic disengagement, and in the longer term, poor sleep can lead to obesity, health conditions (including diabetes), mental health problems, and risk taking behaviour.
The issue of poor sleep and its impact on life outcomes needs particular attention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers who experience disproportionately high rates of poor outcomes in health, social and emotional well-being and education. The ongoing effects of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, and other social determinants of health increase the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers to poor sleep. While some poor sleep issues are transient, continued exposure to racism, discrimination, household overcrowding and lack of safe sleeping spaces lead to chronic sleep issues.
Sleep health data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is limited. Still, some studies suggest one in three young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people struggle with poor sleep, significantly higher than their non-Indigenous counterparts. In response to community needs, Australia’s first sleep health program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers – Let’s Yarn About Sleep – was co-designed in Mount Isa, Queensland.
To view The Conversation article The first sleep health program for First Nations adolescents could change lives in full click here.
Better cardiac care measures for mob
Earlier this month the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released a data update for the 21 Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with updated data available for 9 measures. The level of access for cardiac-related health services is improving for Indigenous Australians. While the mortality rate from cardiac conditions is falling among the Indigenous population, it is still higher than among non-Indigenous Australians.
The key findings from the report are as follows:
- the level of access for cardiac-related health services is improving among Indigenous Australians
- Indigenous Australians are less likely than non-Indigenous Australians to receive treatment after a heart attack
- between 2006 and 2020, the mortality rate from cardiac conditions for Indigenous Australians fell by 26%
- mortality rate from cardiac conditions for Indigenous Australians is 1.8 times that for non-Indigenous Australians
You can view the relevant AIHW webpage Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: seventh national report 2022 (data update) here. The video below is one of the Heart Foundation’s resources for providing best practice cardiovascular care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
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.
Infant Mental Health Awareness Week – 13–19 June 2023
Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs every June to highlight the importance of babies’ emotional wellbeing and development. This year’s theme is ‘Bonding Before Birth’.
What is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week?
Infant mental health is an often overlooked and misunderstood subject. Infant Mental Health Awareness Week provides an annual opportunity to discuss the importance of babies’ mental health and wellbeing as well as some issues that affect it.
Why Bonding Before Birth?
Research shows that the experiences and relationships we have in the earliest years of our lives, including before birth, impact on the development of our brains. Stress and adversity experienced during pregnancy can have a negative impact on babies’ physical and mental health as they grow, but this doesn’t have to be the case. The services in place to support mothers, birthing people, partners and families in pregnancy can make a huge difference. The hope is that this year’s Infant Mental Health Awareness Week will increase awareness of the importance of bonding before birth, and build for the services which we know can help.
For more information on you can access the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health (AAIMH) webpage Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 here.