NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Lung cancer screening chance to have impact

feature tile: vector image of pink lungs, magnifying glass & black dot on one lung; text 'Lung cancer screening: a significant opportunity to address intractable health problem for mob'

The image in the feature tile is from the Lung Cancer Screening Program Saves Lives webpage of the the Lexington Medical Center Blog published on 30 June 2021.

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.

Lung Cancer screening: chance to have an impact

The recently announced National Lung Cancer Screening Program (NLCSP) has the potential to deliver significant health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but only if the program is codesigned by the communities who need it most, according to an article published today in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). The NLCSP, announced by the Australian Government in May 2023 and due to begin in July 2025, will refer individuals aged 50–70 years with a significant history of cigarette smoking for a low dose computed tomography (LDCT) to help identify lung cancer at an early stage where survival rates are improved.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a disproportionate burden of lung cancer in Australia, experiencing double the rates of lung cancer compared with non-Indigenous populations. Lung cancer mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are increasing, in contrast to falling rates in non‐Indigenous Australians. These diverging trends are expected to increase disparities for many years to come and clearly demonstrate the health system is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The disproportionate lung cancer burden means that an NLCSP could deliver greater benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and reduce the disparity with non‐Indigenous Australians.

Senior article author, Associate Professor Lisa Whop, believes the new program could deliver improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, but a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. “We know existing cancer screening programs have struggled to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and this is reflected in low participation rates, and ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders and organisations and those with lived experience are key architects in designing this program will help address some of these participation barriers” A/Prof Whop said.

You can read the MJA article Lung cancer screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: an opportunity to address health inequities in full here and the Insight Plus article Lung Cancer Screening Program must be codesigned with Indigenous Australians in full here. You can also find more information about the NLCSP on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here.

x-ray of lungs on computer screen & rack of medical files

Image source: Oncology News.

The Deadly Physios: taking action as an ally

Actions speak louder than words in allyship and it’s better to make mistakes than not to try at all. But how do you know when to speak up, when to step up and when to shut up? These questions are explored in Episode 5 of The Deadly Physios podcast where Dr Rachel Toovey and Associate Professor Shawana Andrews talk about listening and learning, the keys to building allyship skills and reciprocal relationships.

Associate Professor Shawana Andrews is a Palawa Trawlwoolway woman with a background in social work and public health. She worked in Aboriginal paediatric health and mental health for 13 years prior to moving into higher education. Shawana has been a Senior Lecturer and Academic Specialist in Indigenous Health for many years and is currently the Director of the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include Indigenous doctoral pathways, Aboriginal women’s experiences of family violence and cultural revitalisation.

Dr Rachel Toovey is a non-Indigenous woman living and working on Bunurong and Wurundjeri land in Naarm (Melbourne). Rachel is a lecturer in Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne, and the co-lead of the First Nations, Health Promotion and Equity Teaching Team in the Department of Physiotherapy. She was a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee from 2012–2020 and is current Vice-President of the Victorian Branch of the APA.

You can listen to Episode 5 of The Deadly Physios podcast – Taking action as an ally – Dr. Shawana Andrews and Rachel Toovey in full click here.

tile for The Deadly Physios podcast; logo Australian Physiotherapy Association; L-R Associate Professor Shawana Andrews & Dr Rachel Toovey.

L-R Associate Professor Shawana Andrews & Dr Rachel Toovey. Image source: Australian Physiotherapy Association.

Moves to control APY Lands TB outbreak

The SA government has bolstered efforts to counter a rising tuberculosis outbreak on the state’s Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. More than 700 people have been screened for the potentially life-threatening disease, which was first declared as an outbreak within the Aṉangu community in March this year. Ongoing community-wide screening has focused on those most at-risk including close contacts and school children.

SA Minister for Health Chris Picton said he has been visiting the APY Lands this week to see the first-hand impact of SA Health’s response. “Tuberculosis is preventable and curable and we are committed to doing all we can to stop this cluster from growing. We are promoting awareness and facilitating quick testing and treatment,” Mr Picton said.

The Aboriginal Public Health team from the Department for Health and Wellbeing, SA TB Services within the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA Pathology and South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI) have been working closely with the Nganampa Health Council (NHC) and local Anangu community leaders to coordinate testing, screening, contact tracing and treatment for those who require it.

To read the National Indigenous Times article SA government moves to control tuberculosis outbreak on APY Lands in full click here.

boxes of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines given to infants in TB endemic regions of the world

Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines are given to infants in TB endemic regions of the world. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Kununurra: new Elders residential complex

In a significant boost for Aboriginal Elders and seniors in Kununurra, the WA Government this week announced the completion of a 16-unit Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex. The project aims to cultivate cultural connection, reduce isolation, and furnish culturally appropriate housing for First Nations people in the East Kimberley region.

In addition to residential units, the complex includes an indoor community room and an outdoor meeting space. Joining with Kimberley MP Divina D’Anna and community members in officially opening the new facility Housing Minister John Carey spoke to the importance of co-designing and having a genuine partnership with the Aboriginal community. “Co-design and genuine partnership are essential to ensuring that this new housing development is a successful and vibrant place for community members.”

State Member for Kimberley, Divina D’Anna, celebrated the project as a “great outcome for the Kununurra community.” D’Anna highlighted the multi-pronged impact of the project, “These homes will provide new, culturally appropriate accommodation for our Aboriginal elders.” She also remarked that the facility will address health and well-being issues, including overcrowding, among Aboriginal people over 50 in Kununurra.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Carey & D’Anna open new Aboriginal Elders residential complex in Kununurra in full click here.

L-R Kununurra community member Teddy, Housing Minister John Carey & Kemberley MLA Divina D'Anna cutting ribbon at opening of Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex, Kununurra

L-R Kununurra community member Teddy, Housing Minister John Carey and Kimbeley MLA Divina D’Anna at opening of 16-bed unit Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex. Image credit: John Carey. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

TAMS: supporting women’s health decisions

Women’s health, and supporting women to make informed decisions about their health, was the focus of an informative morning tea and lunch hosted by Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service (TAMS) and the Bumbira Arts and Culture Program, last Thursday during Women’s Health Week 2023 (4–8 September).

About 50 to 60 women took part in the TAMS event, held at Tamworth Botanic Gardens, which started with a smoking ceremony performed by Bumbira Arts and Culture’s Kaliela Thornton. Ms Thornton then kicked off the guest speaker program with a discussion about bush medicine, which was followed by sessions from TAMS women’s health nurse, Alicia Bonomo and diabetes educator Sally Endacott.

Tamworth Family Support Service and HealthWISE also took part in the day, which included a meditation session with Charlie Abra, from Tathra Collective and Bumbira. The day was organised by TAMS Aboriginal health practitioner Kathie Williamson.

The above is an extract from the article Women’s Health week supports women to make informed decisions published in The Northern Daily Leader on 8 September 2023.

TAMs Women's Health Week event, 7.9.23 at Tamworth Botanic Gardens, 3 TAMS staff & guest speaker on bush medicine

The TAMS Women’s Health Week event, held on 7 September 2023 at the Tamworth Botanic Gardens, featured guest speakers who discussed bush medicine, women’s health and diabetes. Photo: Peter Hardin. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.

Medical community has a role to play in Yes vote

Professor Kelvin Kong, a prominent otolaryngology, head and neck surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, believes the majority of Australians would vote Yes to the Voice to Parliament if given the right information, and that the medical community has a role to play. Professor Kong is a Worimi man, working on Awabakal and Worimi Country at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital and John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

Earlier this year, Professor Kong was named NAIDOC Person of the Year for his work with Indigenous children at risk of hearing loss due to otitis media. “Unfortunately, Australia still has the worst ear disease rates in the world,” Professor Kong said. “Chronic suppurative otitis media affects from 40% to 85% of children in Indigenous communities. It is disheartening discussing my mob on an international scale because of the dichotomy that exists with ear disease here.

“Every kid endures otitis media at some point in their life. Most get it at around two years of age. In our population, we’ve seen it occur in under-12-months. The big difference is whether you identify the issue early and whether you get access to the help required.”

To view the InSight+ article Medical community has role to play in achieving a Yes vote: Kelvin Kong in full click here.

Professor Kelvin Kong at reception of medical centre

Professor Kelvin Kong. Image source: InSight+.

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