NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: World Diabetes Day 2023

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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.

World Diabetes Day 2023

Tuesday 14 November is World Diabetes Day, with the theme Know your Risk, Know your Response. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are grossly over-represented in the diabetes burden of disease compared to other Australians. The prevalence of diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults is three times the national rate for non-Indigenous people, and youth onset type 2 diabetes is rising rapidly. There is an urgent need for earlier diagnosis and a focus on prevention.

NACCHO’s September 2023 Inquiry into Diabetes recommends:

  • Any interventions to address diabetes align with the National Agreement and its four Priority Reform Areas.
  • Government adopts a ‘heath in all policies’ approach, recognising that health outcomes are influenced by a wide range of social, commercial, political, environmental and cultural determinants.
  • The Australian Government allocates diabetes funding based on burden of disease not population.
  • Working in partnership with the sector and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop better health programs to support young people with diabetes.
  • The Australian Government supports ACCHOs to conduct nationally standardised screening and follow-up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children for diabetes.
  • The development of resources to support implementation of new screening recommendations.
  • Changes to MBS to improve availability of point of care diagnostics aligned with best practice.
  • The Australian Government supports ACCHOs to deliver high-quality models of antenatal care which include midwife continuity, and antenatal and postnatal screening for diabetes, and breastfeeding support.
  • Funding for GLP1 RA for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with obesity, given its association with type 2 diabetes and establish regulatory framework that prioritises equitable supply toward communities with the greatest burden of type 2 diabetes.
  • Changes to the PBS to allow concurrent prescribing of GLP1 RAs and SGLT2 inhibitors for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with type 2 diabetes.
  • Government funds novel models of CGM use and evaluation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • ACCHOs are funded to deliver holistic health promotion, prevention and engagement programs that normalise good health.
  • ACCHOs are funded to establish health promotion and prevention teams to support community health.
  • Funding to embed non-dispensing pharmacists in ACCHOs to support chronic disease management.
  • Funding ACCHRTOs to work in partnership with universities to develop nationally accredited skillsets and pathways to support Aboriginal Health Practitioners to become Credentialled Diabetes Educators.
  • ACCHRTOs are funded to co-design nationally certified diabetes prevention and better health resources to support ACCHO workforce upskilling and training.
  • The Australian Government redirects funding to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes to the ACCHO sector.

Read the full Inquiry into Diabetes here.

First Nations Director Scholarships Program

In its inaugural round, the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) is partnering with the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute (AIGI) to support 45 directors and senior leaders in the First Nations community-controlled sector who are ready to step into governance roles. The program is aimed at developing a pipeline of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander directors with the skills and capability to be appointed to First Nations and non-First Nations boards. The program will provide 135 foundational and senior governance scholarships over the next three years. Participants will have access to world-class governance education as well as a program of culturally relevant and community-informed mentoring and workshops.

The Program supports the National Agreement on Closing the Gap Priority Reform Two and the Government’s commitment to building a strong and sustainable First Nations community-controlled sector that delivers high quality services to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country. The scholarship is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders currently sitting on a board or committee of a member (or subsidiary member) organisation of the Coalition of Peaks. Applicants will be required to upload a Letter of Support from their organisation endorsing applicant’s participation in the program and agreeing to fund travel costs in excess of $500 (excl GST).

Applications close Sunday 26 November. Find more information here.

Image source: Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Collective action for environment, climate and health at HEAL 2023

On this week, the Healthy Environments and Lives (HEAL) Conference is bringing together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wisdom, sustainable development, epidemiology, and data science and communication, to share knowledge, and to put that knowledge into action as we face the health challenges of environmental degradation and climate change. In the leadup to the HEAL Network conference Veronica Matthews, Associate Professor at the University Centre for Rural Health at the University of Sydney, told Croakey that, while it’s good we now have a government open to “listening to the science of climate change” and genuine policy commitments, it may not be “enough to reign in the consequences of climate change that we are living with now.”

“Anything we do really has to think about a decolonising process,” Ms Matthews said.

“We need to remedy what the colonial impacts have done to use, the detrimental impacts that we’ve endured, as well as strengthen the value and appreciation of Indigenous knowledge systems and what they can bring.”

Read the full Croakey Health Media article here.

After the 2019/20 bushfires on Karta Pintingga/Kangaroo Island. Image by: Alison Barrett.

Winnunga pivotal to ACT’s health system

Julie Tongs has been the CEO of Winnunga for 25 years and says her vision has always been for Winnunga to be a leader in the provision of primary health care. Speaking to Canberra City News, Ms Tongs said the ACCHO located on Ngunnawal Country is “pivotal to the overall health system in the ACT and surrounding NSW region.”

In the 2021/22 financial year, Winnunga provided 92,000 occasions of care to 8,295 clients. This included COVID-19 vaccinations, testing clinics, telephone consults, walk-in services to GPs, as well as psychologists, psychiatrists, podiatrist, optometry, physiotherapy, dieticians, drug and alcohol support and mental health nurses.

“They come to use because they feel safe here and not judged,” Ms Tongs said.

Read the full article here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah CEO Julie Tongs. Image source: Canberra City News.

A long drive for a healthier smile

Access to essential services, including dental care, remains a challenge for people living in remote areas, and the disparity in healthcare opportunities often results in enduring suffering for those without access. From Gibb River Station, Warrawa man Uncle Clyde Russ undertook a challenging 376km journey to see an Air Force dentist in Derby, WA. At age 72, Uncle Clyde said he usually “hates” dental check-ups and puts off going.

“It’s my least favourtie thing, seeing the dentist. I think that is why I let my teeth get bad,” Uncle Clyde said.

“I really love the [Air Force] dental team at the Derby Aboriginal Health Service.

“They help me feel at ease, and have done the procedures so they don’t hurt at all.”

Now, Uncle Clyde encourages others to look after their dental health.

Read more here.

Air Force dental assistant Sergeant Deborah Williamson and Uncle Clyde Russ. Image Source: Australian Government Defence.

Mental Health paper in Arrernte language

Research on the importance of cultural continuity for Central Australian Aboriginal men’s mental health has been translated into Eastern/Central Arrernte, making it one of the first academic papers to be translated in full into an Australian Aboriginal Language. Eastern/Central Arrernte is one of the most commonly spoken Aboriginal languages in Australia, in an area of Central Australia that includes Alice Springs and East MacDonnell Ranges.

The paper discusses kinship, language, religious and economic activities that can help restore traditional knowledge, which can in turn help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men develop positive identity and mental health.

Read in Eastern/Central Arrernte here. Read in English here.

Eastern/Central Arrernte abstract translation.

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