NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Australia’s first national cancer plan a reality

feature tile image of ATSI cancer survivor Jacinta Elston; text 'Improving outcomes for ATSI people a priority of Australia's first National Cancer Plan'

The image in the feature tile of cancer survivor Jacinta Elston appeared in an ABC News article Australia’s first national cancer plan aims to improve outcomes for Indigenous and regional Australians, available here, published yesterday, Thursday 2 November 2023. Image: Blacklock Media.

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.

Australia’s first national cancer plan a reality

Improving outcomes for Australians with the poorest cancer experiences, especially First Nations people, will be a priority for the nation’s first cancer plan. Cancer Australia CEO Professor Dorothy Keefe launched the landmark Australian Cancer Plan this week in a plenary address to the 50th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) in Melbourne. The plan has been developed by Cancer Australia, in consultation with the states and territories, First Nations communities, clinicians, researchers, people with lived experience of cancer and support organisations.

The plan covers all cancer types, across the whole cancer journey, from prevention and early detection to treatment, recovery, and end of life care. A key priority of the plan is improving outcomes for groups with the poorest cancer experiences, with a particular focus on First Nations people. Achieving equity for First Nations people was an urgent priority, Professor Keefe said. First Nations people are 14% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 45% more likely to die from cancer than non-Indigenous people.

Professor Keefe said she and everyone at Cancer Australia were “very excited” to see the plan come to fruition. “This is the first time Australia has ever had national cancer control plan,” she said. “And this one was created by the entire sector working together. The patients, the advocates, the researchers, traditions, the government’s it’s just great.” The plan sets out two and five-year goals for achieving these strategic objectives, and a 10-year ambition. The strategic objectives include:

  • Maximising cancer prevention and early detection
  • Enhanced consumer experience
  • World-class health systems for optimal care
  • Strong and dynamic foundations
  • Workforce to transform the delivery of cancer care
  • Achieving equity in cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

To view the Medical Republic article Australia’s first national cancer plan a reality in full click here.

Major step towards new WA ACCHO

The Fitzroy Valley Health and Wellbeing Project Working Group has taken the next step in its mission to establish a community controlled health service with the recent incorporation of Barrala Health Service Aboriginal Corporation. The aim of the Fitzroy Valley Health and Wellbeing Project, established in 2021, is to establish a dedicated Aboriginal community controlled health service to deliver comprehensive primary healthcare services in Fitzroy Crossing.

With the the entity now incorporated, Barrala has begun work on a detailed business plan for the establishment of the health service which will include staffing, service design, specialist services, infrastructure and capital works. The service’s design will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the Fitzroy Crossing community.

Barrala will partner with stakeholders including the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS), the Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), NACCHO, the WA Country Health Service and the WA and Commonwealth Governments.

To view the Broome Advertiser article Fitzroy Valley Health and Wellbeing Project takes major step towards community controlled health service in full click here.

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service treasurer Chris Bin Kali and Barrala Health Service co-chairs Delvene Green and Joe Ross

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service treasurer Chris Bin Kali and Barrala Health Service co-chairs Delvene Green and Joe Ross. Image source: Broome Advertiser.

Political misinformation regulation required

The recent open letter to the PM and parliamentarians broke the week-long silence from Indigenous leaders after the country rejected the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament. The letter emphasised the damage caused by the “lies in political advertising and communication” prevalent in the recent campaign. The immediate consequences of these campaign messages have been profoundly damaging, with Indigenous-led mental health helpline 13 YARN receiving a 108% increase of Indigenous people reporting racism, abuse and trauma.

The federal government has proposed to introduce legislation to address the risks of political misinformation as a way of addressing three crucial factors: 1) Fake news and information spreads faster than real news, and is very hard to stop once it gets going. Misinformation can be posted on social media and reach a large audience before the information can be taken down. It’s easier to ensure politicians and political actors are prevented from saying it in the first place. 2) The public is often largely unaware when information is incorrect, and don’t necessarily have the skill or engagement to verify facts for themselves. 3) Belief in misinformation continues even after correction, a factor known as the continued influence effect.

Relying solely on the media, the public and rival political candidates to correct false statements is like expecting rain to extinguish a bush fire without any intervention from emergency services. While rain might sometimes help douse the flames, it’s inconsistent and unreliable. Similarly, while media and public scrutiny can occasionally correct misinformation, it’s not a guaranteed or systematic solution. Political misinformation spread online is like thousands of small fires simultaneously being lit.

To view The Conversation article Regulating political misinformation isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to protect democracy in full click here.

snapshot of AAP FactCheck post text 'This claim in false. Experts say results at the electorate level are not an indication of how Indigenous people voted'

Image: AAP FactCheck Twitter post. Image source: The Conversation.

Funding boost for three health projects

Three Indigenous health projects led by teams at the University of Sydney will share in over $3.2m as part of an initiative by the Australian Government to help find new ways to reduce chronic disease, improve mental health, help people quit smoking and increase resilience in kids. The projects are focused on involving First Nations people from their inception, and listening to the lived experience of the communities and peoples involved at every stage.Professor Robyn Ward, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor Medicine and Health, congratulated the recipients, noting the impact that Indigenous-led and community informed projects can have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Professor Ward said the projects listed below, “have the potential to address areas of critical need for Indigenous Australians. We welcome the support from the Australian Government to support our researchers and communities. Working together is the best way to make a difference for mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

  • Connecting our Way – aims to build confidence in children in emotional regulation, mindfulness, and managing emotions at high-risk times
  • Creating Mental Health Safe Spaces in Pharmacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consumers: Educating the primary care workforce in Mental Health First Aid (The MH-SPACE Trial) – aims to address the disproportionate lack of adequate mental health support available to First Nations Australians by upskilling the frontline, primary care workforce, namely community pharmacists – who are highly accessible and trusted healthcare professionals
  • Social Wellbeing Program – aims to develop a culturally-based social and emotional wellbeing program for young First Nations people in prison, to better deal with the underlying causes of unsocial behaviours, such as intergenerational trauma

To view The University of Sydney article Indigenous health projects get funding boost in full click here.

close up photo of grass tree plant, superimposed with white dot & line Aboriginal lines

Image source: The University of Sydney.

Input invite: PSA palliative care training program

In recent months the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has been successful in its application for a grant under the National Palliative Care Projects grant program. Over the next 2 years the PSA’s aim is to develop a palliative care foundation training program for Australian pharmacists. This training program is not intended to prepare pharmacists to specialise in palliative care, but rather to broadly upskill and equip Australian pharmacists with the foundation knowledge, skills and compassion needed to provide palliative care support to patients through quality use of medicines. The course, once developed, will be available free of charge to all pharmacists nationally by means of online self-directed learning.

The PSA is keen to ensure that the palliative care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and communities are considered throughout the training course, and brought to the attention of pharmacists and are seeking input from individual health professionals and also from carers and consumers, via 2 separate online surveys. The input will be carefully considered as the PSA develop the key learning objectives and overarching module structure of the program.

You can find more information on the National Palliative Care Projects grant program here.

The health professionals survey is available here, and the carers and consumers survey is available here.

The closing date for all input is Friday 17 November 2023 at 5pm AEDT.

ATSI hand being cradled by health worker

Image source: PSA Returning to Spirit webpage.

Helping improve health outcomes in the bush

Australia’s leading organic global meat producer, Hewitt has committed $750,000 to support the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) sections in Qld, SA and NT, and NSW, delivering critical health and wellbeing care to remote Indigenous and farming communities.  The RFDS is vital in turning the tide to help improve health outcomes for people living in rural and remote areas. Around 230,000 occasions of care are delivered each year between Qld, SA and the NT, and the South Eastern Sections. Around 28% of the Australian population live in rural and remote areas, with data revealing people in these communities often experience poorer health outcomes when compared to city dwellers, due to less access to primary health care services. 

For Indigenous communities, which make up around 32% of those living in rural and remote Australia, life expectancy is lower and there is a higher prevalence of modifiable risk factors that could lead to serious health issues such as kidney, urinary tract or coronary heart disease, injury or suicide. The five-year partnership between Hewitt and the RFDS aims to improve the physical and mental health and well-being of people in rural, regional, and remote areas of Australia by ensuring vital medicine, health technology and medical/mental health advice is delivered. 

RFDS (Queensland Section) CEO Meredith Staib said the Hewitt collaboration will go towards providing important front-line services to people in rural and remote communities, “Our aim is to provide the finest care to the furthest corner and we’re grateful for the generous support of Hewitt over such a significant amount of time. “ We’re continuing to work hard to provide positive and equitable health outcomes across Australia and this is only possible with the support of Australia’s rural sector.”

To view the Third Sector article Helping improve medical and mental health outcomes in the bush in full click here.

RFDS plane in outback, patient on stretcher being carried 4 adults to the plane

Image source: Third Sector.

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.

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