NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Dr king sees colonisation’s impact every day

feature tile image of Dr Jason King against tree trunk; text '“I see and feel every day the impact of colonisation.” Yued Noongar man Dr Jason King'

The image in the feature tile is of Dr Jason King, a Yued Noongar man who says the impact of colonisalism is far-reaching. The image appears in the article First Nations health professionals ‘deeply saddened’ following Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s colonisation claims published by ABC News on Saturday 16 September 2023.

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.

Dr King sees colonisation’s impact every day

First Nations health professionals and those living with chronic health issues say they are “disappointed” and “deeply saddened” following Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s claims First Nations Australians are not living with ongoing negative impacts of colonisation. On Thursday last week (14 September 2023), the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, gave an address to the National Press Club. When asked if she felt there were any ongoing, negative impacts of colonisation on Indigenous Australians, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price responded, “No, there’s no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation.”

Yued Noongar man Dr Jason King, who is the director of Clinical Services at the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation in Yarrabah, far north QLD disagrees, “In my day-to-day job and through my lived experience I see and feel every day the impact of colonisation.” Dr King said he was “deeply saddened and disappointed” to hear an Aboriginal politician with a high profile making statements that, he says, “blatantly deny the existence, history, lived experience of so many Australians”.

“The community I work for sits no more than an hour out of Cairns and yet there’s 4,000 people there that live in 350 houses,” Dr King said. “We have a Rheumatic Heart Disease rate, a medical condition which has been eliminated from the broader Australian population to a larger extent, that is 100 times the average in this country.” Dr King linked Yarrabah’s high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and suicides to “policies of the past and the future”, rather than the choices of Yarrabah residents.

To view the ABC News article First Nations health professionals ‘deeply saddened’ following Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s colonisation claims in full click here.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney with creek in background

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney described Jacinta Price’s comments as “offensive”. Photo: ABC News.

Cathy Freeman: a ‘Just One Breath’ ambassador

Seven million Australians, the equivalent to one in four of us, have a chronic respiratory disease. Sporting hero Cathy Freeman discovered she had asthma at age 18 and she says it has worsened since. Cathy was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma, triggered by vigorous physical exertion and prescribed preventative puffers and Ventolin. Even after Cathy won the 400m gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics she was breathing quite heavily, trying to gulp in as much air as possible. Then, over a decade ago, Cathy was diagnosed with full blown asthma.

It was only a few years ago that Cathy said she finally came to terms with her condition, “Up until then, I just didn’t want to admit I had asthma. As a former professional athlete it didn’t sit well with me, and I was only able to fully accept the condition earlier this year.” Cathy said that when she was asked by Lung Foundation Australia to become an ambassador for their ‘Just One Breath’ initiative, she didn’t hesitate. The campaign aims to inspire conversations about lung health and Cathy said she is passionate about helping others because she sees herself in other people.

To cope with her lung disease Cathy strengthens her lungs through exercise, healthy living and avoiding asthma triggers. Cathy also makes sure she gets plenty of rest and keeps up her water intake. Cathy said people commonly think of lung disease as a smoker’s disease, however lung disease doesn’t discriminate – it affects the young, old, male, female, smokers, former-smokers, and non-smokers. Indigenous people die of lung disease at a rate three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians.

You can check how healthy your lungs are by taking the Lung Foundation’s interactive Lung Health Checklist here and view The Carousel article Lung Disease: Cathy Freeman Reveals Her Secret Battle in full click here.

Cathy Freeman in jeans & white t-shirt standing in white empty room with blue circle with words 'just one breath'

Cathy Freeman. Image source: The Carousel.

Bed bugs, a potentially serious public health issue

Norman Frank Jupurrurla, a Warumungu Elder and traditional owner is living in public housing that’s been stripped bare after bed bugs ripped through his three bedroom home. The contents of his house are at the local tip. It’s the second time in six months that bed bugs have spread throughout his home in Village Camp, a community living area on the outskirts of Tennant Creek. The parasitic insects feed on the blood of humans and animals and have wrongly been associated with poor hygiene. “It’s like hell, mate,” Mr Frank said. “You will be scratching and itching all night and you won’t be able to sleep because of the bugs.”

Dr Simon Quilty, who has lived and worked as a specialist physician in remote NT for most of the past two decades, personally contacted several people in the NT Health Department to sound the alarm. “It’s just astounding that the department doesn’t see the need for early identification of a potentially serious public health, infectious disease,” he said. “Mr Frank has very serious health issues, he’s immunocompromised and the bed bugs can cause sores that eventually can become infected. For people that have chronic disease, bed bugs pose a real threat to their health — more importantly, it’s their psychological wellbeing.”

Dr Quilty has been collaborating with Mr Frank to develop culturally safe, and climate appropriate housing for Aboriginal communities through their organisation, Wilya Janta. Together they hope to solve some of the complex public housing issues places like Tennant Creek face. “Different agencies like housing and health need to be truly collaborative,” Dr Quilty said. “To solve complex problems, the community needs to be in the driving seat and needs easy ways to be heard.”

To view the ABC News article ‘It beggars belief’: Bed bug outbreaks highlight Tennant Creek public housing issues in full click here.

Norman Frank at front of Tennant Creek House with small child

Norman Frank, Tennant Creek, NT. Image source: SBS News

Nurse practitioners can help address workforce shortages

The persistent challenges arising from nationwide shortages of general practitioners in regional, rural and remote Australia are well known. Recent calls for new approaches incorporating effective team-based care and improved coordination combined with funding models specific to rural health care reflect demands for a shift from business as usual. More recently, the Australian Government has turned its attention to strategies to improve availability and access to primary health care (PHC). One of the many strategies includes a debt waiver for Higher Education Loans for doctors and nurse practitioners who meet the eligibility criteria and will work in rural, remote or very remote areas. Nurse practitioners are not a replacement for doctors but can be an important part of the solution.

The nurse practitioner role was first introduced in Australian more than 20 years ago with an intention that nurse practitioners would support the delivery of PHC in rural and remote Australia; however, uptake in primary health care has been slow. The 2022 workforce data report that 69% of nurse practitioners are in metropolitan areas, while in 2019 the Australian Department of Health reported that only 4.4% of all nurse practitioners worked in general practice nursing.

One factor integral to success was both community and medical practitioner acceptance of the nurse practitioner role. Where collaborative arrangements across services are in place, the nurse practitioner is able to work across hospital, residential aged care and general practice, resulting in improved continuity of care. Reports continue to describe uncertainty about the role of the nurse practitioner combined with limited understanding of the scope of practice of the role.

To view the InSight Plus article How nurse practitioners can help address rural health workforce shortages in full click here.

Australia's first Aboriginal Nurse Practitioner Lesley Salem

Australia’s first Aboriginal Nurse Practitioner was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 2022 for her significant service to nursing and Indigenous health. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.

AI revolutionising diabetes treatment

Artificial intelligence (AI) has begun revolutionising the way people with diabetes receive life-saving medicines. Speaking at a parliamentary inquiry into diabetes, endocrinologist Associate Professor Roger Chen said AI had been developed that enabled continuous glucose monitors to interact with insulin pumps. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a wearable device that tracks blood glucose (sugar) every few minutes, throughout the day and night. The readings are relayed in real time to a device that can be read by the patient, caregiver or healthcare provider, even remotely.

A/Proff Chen told a public hearing in Canberra last Friday (15 September 2023) “that from an emotional, face-to-face at the coal face and also from a publication and research perspective that this really has revolutionised type 1 diabetes, it has changed people’s lives and management.” Diabetes Australia says only around 24% of people living with type 1 diabetes are currently able to access the technology. The number of Australians living with diabetes has more than doubled since 2000 to reach more than 1.5m, and the country is on track to reach 3.1m by 2050.

The disease disproportionately affects people in Indigenous communities, and the inquiry heard from one health expert calling for a fresh approach to tackle the problem, led by First Nations people. “The impact of diabetes in Indigenous communities cannot be overstated with around one in 10 adults living with diabetes,” said NACCHO’s senior medical adviser Dr Jason Agostino. Dr Agostino, who practises as a GP in Yarrabah, far north Queensland, and whose son has type 1 diabetes, said there is a high degree of overlap between diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal disease, “This leads to early heart attacks, people ending up with kidney failure on dialysis, to blindness and amputations. In Yarrabah I suspect every family has been affected by the loss of someone early to the consequences of diabetes.”

You can view the HealthTimes article AI is revolutionishing diabetes treatment, inquiry told in full here.
DailyDose app being displayed on a smartphone and the related diabetes tools with which it works: a glucose sensor transmitter and a smart insulin pen

DailyDose app being displayed on a smartphone and the related diabetes tools with which it works: a glucose sensor transmitter and a smart insulin pen. Photo: Christine Torres Hicks. Image source: OHSU website.

Restoring Smiles of Yarrabah Shire

Monthly shuttle buses from Yarrabah to the James Cook University (JCU) Dental Clinic started last week as part of a new initiative bringing free dental care to the community after claims that only 100 of the 4,000 residents have seen a dentist all year. JCU’s initiative ‘Restoring the Smiles of Yarrabah Shire’ will provide free basic treatments for all Queensland Government issued concession card holders in Yarrabah, running monthly shuttle buses until May 2024.

JCU’s Professor John Abbott is leading the project and said JCU Dentistry staff and students visited Yarrabah for three days in early September to run education workshops, promote health and provide free dental examinations. “Senior dentistry students will be providing a range of dental treatments, under the supervision of experienced clinicians,” Professor Abbott said. He said the project has been made possible by grants from the Australian Dental Health Foundation and the Mars Wrigley Foundation and is being run in partnership with the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation.

“The oral health Queensland Government statistics show that only 100 members of the community have received treatment since January at the Yarrabah clinic, with another 100 persons on a waiting list for non-urgent treatments,” Professor Abbott said. “Delayed treatments have caused this already undeserved ‘at-risk’ community to have poorer health outcomes, increased incidence of dental cavities, tooth loss or hospitalisations.

The above story is an extract from an article JCU will start free monthly shuttle buses from Yarrabah to offer basic dental care published in the Herald Sun earlier today.

Kayleen Jackson from Yarrabah being attended by 4th year dentistry student Olivia Gables at JCU Dental Clinic

Kayleen Jackson from Yarrabah being attended by 4th year dentistry student Olivia Gables at the JCU Dental Clinic. Image source: Herald Sun.

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.

Key Date – Dementia Action Week – 18–24 September 2023

Dementia Action Week is a major leadership, awareness and advocacy campaign led by Dementia Australia as the peak body for people living with dementia, their families and carers. Dementia Action Week 2023 is from 18–24 September, which includes World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday 21 September.

Around two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community. A lack of knowledge and understanding of dementia may lead to people living with dementia experiencing stigma and discrimination in the community.

Dementia Australia research shows 81% of those with a loved one living with dementia felt that people in shops, cafes and restaurants treated people with dementia differently. That’s why this Dementia Action Week, Dementia Australia is encouraging everyone to take a few simple actions to create a dementia-friendly future for all Australians, a future that is better for everyone in the community.

You can find out more information about Dementia Action Week 2023 on the Dementia Australia website here. You can also watch the below video You’re Not Alone: Discussing Dementia – it is one of a series of videos and other resources, available here, developed by Dementia Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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