Aboriginal hand with cannula on edge of hospital bed

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: AMA says COVID-19 shows a need to reset health spending

COVID-19 shows a need to reset health spending

According to AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, Australia needs to reset it attitude to health expenditure, with a fundamental reassessment of the priority put on real increases to health spending. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to rethink many of our assumptions about the functioning of society. Absolutely fundamental to this is our understanding of what a health system that is fit for purpose looks like,” Dr Khorshid said. “The pandemic has shown the strains on so many parts of our health system, particularly aged care, mental health, and protections for our frontline healthcare workers, as well as the need to keep this deadly virus out of our Indigenous communities. There can be no avoiding it. A serious investment in health with a substantial real increase in spending is required.”

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Sunrise Health Service worker checking heart of patient

Barunga Healthcare worker Desleigh Shields. Image Source: ABC News website.

Diagnosing otitis media with telehealth

Each year 650,000 Australian children suffer from recurrent or chronic ear infections called otitis media (OM). OM can cause permanent hearing loss but is entirely preventable when treated early. Aboriginal children are disproportionately impacted by middle ear disease with OM affecting one in four children in Australia – but one in every two Aboriginal children. The current average wait time of two years for assessment is too long for children who are in crucial key stages of language, behavioural and educational development. Struggling to understand what is happening to them, many may face long-term social or mental health impacts.

Paediatric audiologist Dr Chris Brennan-Jones is committed to finding solutions for ear health – like changing assessment wait times from two years to 10 days. Dr Bennan-Jones is working with an ear health partnership in metro Perth called Djaalinj Waakinj – ‘Listening, Talking’ in Noongar language. In a program that is the first of its kind in Australia Djaalinj Waakinj fuses telehealth technology with support from local Aboriginal health workers to facilitate remote diagnosis of OM.

To view the full article click here.

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones sitting outside with laptop

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones. Image source: Particle website.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Health scholarships

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying, or intending to study, entry-level health courses could receive life changing financial assistance to follow their passion thanks to the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS). The PHMSS is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the NACCHO.

To read the full article about the PHMSS in the National Indigenous Times click here.

Applications for the PHMSS are now open and will close on Sunday 8 November 2020. For more information click here.

portrait of Ashleigh Ryan PHMSS recipient

PHMSS recipient Ashleigh Ryan. Image source: Australian College of Nursing website.

NCCRED Clinical Research Scholarship Program

The National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs (NCCRED) has developed a Clinical Research Scholarship Program to build the scope and capacity of clinical research on emerging drugs across the drug and alcohol sector. This is a national program open to clinicians at all levels, anywhere in Australia. NCCRED is opening TWO new competitive rounds which will give financial and research support allowing recipients to conduct a new research project. The rounds will have a focus on the following areas:

  • Practicing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals (clinicians, nurses, allied health workers) in the AOD sector.
  • nursing and allied health professionals preferably practicing alcohol and other drugs nurses and allied health professionals, though applications are open to all clinicians working within the AOD sector.

For more information about the NCCRED scholarship program click here. 

Applications are now open and close on 6 November 2020.

Aboriginal health professional sitting in from of Aboriginal D&A banner

Image source: ABC News website.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce Communique

You can read the full National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce Communique #25 here.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce logo

Image source: National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce website.

COVID-19 transmission in educational settings

Since March 2020, the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) has joined forces with the NSW Ministry of Health and NSW Department of Education to investigate COVID-19 cases in schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services.

You can view the webinar Learning together – Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in NSW educational settings covering COVID-19 transmission in NSW educational settings, what the latest data show and how a multi-disciplinary approach has helped people learn together by clicking here.

Nawarddeken Academy school - 14 Aboriginal students sitting at a table

Nawarddeken Academy school. Image source: The Conversation website.

Melbourne workers of concern to Tennant Creek health groups 

Up to 10 gas pipeline workers from a coronavirus hotspot have begun quarantining in a Tennant Creek hotel under a Government-approved plan that Indigenous health groups are demanding be shared with them. The group from Melbourne has also been given permission to leave the hotel under an arrangement organised for maintenance work on Jemena’s Northern Gas Pipeline, which runs from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa. The vast majority of people arriving in the NT from coronavirus hotspots are ordered into a fortnight of supervised quarantine at designated facilities in Darwin or Alice Springs at a cost of $2,500.

Indigenous health groups are concerned the alternative arrangement risks coronavirus spreading to Tennant Creek’s majority Indigenous population and that of nearby communities. Barb Shaw from Anyinginyi Health, the region’s major Indigenous health service, said she had requested to see the company’s COVID-19 management plan early last week but never heard back.

To read the full ABC News story click here.

portrait of Anyinginyi Health CEO Barb Shaw

Anyinginyi Health CEO Barb Shaw. Image source: ABC News.

Keep Our Mob Safe from COVID-19

The latest update on COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, communities and organisations is available click here. Things can change quickly so it is important to stay up to date.

Keep Our Mob Safe, Stop The Spread banner

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

2021 seasonal influenza preparation required

During 2020 there was a significant demand for seasonal influenza vaccines in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that this demand is likely to continue and also be evident for future seasons. To this end, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer is encouraging key stakeholders to turn their minds to their preparations for next year’s season. To view the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer’s letter to stakeholders click here.

text flu season syringe inserted in vial

Image source: 1011 Now News website.

PBS changes a win for palliative care

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) welcomes much needed improvements to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings for opioids, which will clarify their important role in alleviating suffering for palliative care patients. AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the Association supported important reforms to reduce the inappropriate use of opioids in Australia. Dr Khorshid said the original PBS changes implemented on 1 June 2020 caused significant confusion and concern from prescribers and their patients, unintentionally making prescriber access to opioids more difficult for palliative care patients with a legitimate clinical need. This was particularly difficult for non-cancer palliative care patients.

The AMA has been advocating to the Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, providing feedback from AMA members on the 1 June 2020 changes. “The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has reflected this feedback in the 1 October 2020 PBS listing changes, so it’s pleasing that the vital advocacy work of the AMA has been heeded,” Dr Khorshid said. “Patients will be exempt from the 12-month pain management review by a second doctor or palliative care nurse practitioner if their clinical condition makes the review not possible. “This is an important change for palliative care patients who may be too unwell for this to occur.”

To view the AMS’s media release click here.

Aboriginal man with arms around Aboriginal woman looking out across river in Australian landscape

Image source: Palliative Care Victoria.

Social enterprise to tackle remote NT food inequities

An urgent food crisis is threatening remote Aboriginal communities across the country, with an estimated 1.2 million Australians unable to regularly access culturally appropriate, safe and nutritious food from a non-emergency source. Kere to Country, a new First Nations-led social enterprise, hopes they can make a difference, starting in Alice Springs/Mparntwe. Kere means ‘food from animals’ in Arrernte.

Three young Indigenous entrepreneurs—Jessica Wishart, 31, Jordan Wishart, 25, and Tommy Hicks, 24 (pictured below) —were inspired to do something about the crisis after visiting Alice Springs/Mparntwe. The trio saw Aboriginal communities couldn’t afford essential products that were necessary to keep their families healthy and safe. “It’s an urgent crisis—one that has been going on for a really long time, but it’s gotten worse since the pandemic,” CEO Jessica Wishart said.

The concept is simple: Kere to Country will provide remote communities with access to meat through bulk purchases or smaller packs. Aiming to eventually expand to all of central Australia, the team will distribute packs to Alice Springs/Mparntwe, both in and out of town, and the Tennant Creek region.

To visit the Kere to Country website click here.

Kere to Country entrepreneurs Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart, Tommy Hicks

Kere to Country entrepreneurs Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart, Tommy Hicks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Palkyu descendent 2020 Australia Mental Health prize finalist

Professor Helen Milroy is one of seven finalists in the running for the 2020 Australia Mental Health prize. The Prize, now in its fifth year, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

Professor Milroy is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, completing medical studies and specialist training in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is passionate about combining Aboriginal and western knowledge systems to improve outcomes. Her work and research in the areas of holistic medicine, child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, application of Indigenous knowledge, and cultural models of care have made a significant difference to the lives of children and young people, particularly those with a trauma background. Her efforts in developing and supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce and cultural safety in health and mental health through curriculum development, education and training, implementation and evaluation, has had a lasting impact on Aboriginal health and mental health across Australia.

To view the full article about the 2020 Australia Mental Health prize finalists click here.

portrait of Professor Helen Milroy

Professor Helen Milroy. Image source: AusDoc website.

Breast cancer survivor fears many others won’t

Breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but what’s more concerning is that not a lot of these women survive. It’s a hidden disease that shows no symptoms until it has developed into a lump some time down the track.

Aunty Joy was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 48. She had a single mastectomy and says “I am a survivor and still a sufferer. Around the time of my diagnosis, there were no radiographers where I was. But if I had waited, who knows what the end result would’ve been? I went through the experience alone and it was traumatic, something that I don’t want to see other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women go through. Every two weeks I would take myself to chemotherapy, the most grueling and horrible experience with side effects that were harrowing.”

portrait photo of Aunty Joy

Aunty Joy. Image source: MamaMia website.

To read the full article about Aunty Joy’s breast cancer journey click here.

ACT – Canberra

Social Media Communications Coordinator

NACCHO is seeking a Social Media Communication Coordinator to manage and maintain NACCHO’s social media presence and daily blog. The position requires working cohesively with the NACCHO Communications team towards the creation and delivery of social media campaigns and driving key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector new content across channels. To view details of the position click here.

Applications close at 9.00 am Friday 16 October 2020.

AFL Indigenous All Stars coach Michael O'Loughlin with the “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” app

AFL Indigenous All Stars coach Michael O’Loughlin with the “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” app. Image source: Australian Government NIAA website.

medical professional with PPE - head covering, mask & rubber gloves

NACCHO Aboriginal News Alert: Healthcare worker PPE too little too late

Healthcare worker PPE too little too late

The AMA has demanded revised guidelines on personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, following revelations that more than 2,500 Victorian healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19. More than two-thirds of the second wave infections of healthcare workers in Victoria have been confirmed to have happened in the workplace.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Updated RACS Indigenous Health position paper

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ (RACS) has released an updated Indigenous Health position paper outlining its commitment to addressing health inequities of Indigenous communities in Australia and NZ.

To review the position paper click here.

two medical staff in scrubs in theatre

Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Framework to guide health professional practice

Working effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is important in maximising the effectiveness of health care interaction between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and health professionals. BioMed Central (BMC) Health Services Research has published a paper outlining a framework to guide health professional practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

To view the research article click here.

Image of ophthalmologist with Aboriginal patient lying on medical bed under eye equipment

Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Self-harm spike across Kimberley

Researchers and medical services in the Kimberley say they are “concerned but not surprised” at the findings of a new University of WA report A profile of suicide and self-harm in the Kimberley, outlining the still disproportionately high suicide and self-harm rates in the region compared to the rest of WA and Australia. The report recommends a thorough redesign of health services in the Kimberley and the need to ensure adequate resourcing to ensure better care is provided.

To view the full ABC News article click here.

image of multiple white crosses marking graves in red dusty country

Image source: ABC News.

Indigenous LGBQTI+SB suicide prevention introduction

Indigenous LGBQTI+SB people deal with additional societal challenges, ones that can regularly intersect, contributing to the heightened development of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug problems, and risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour. To coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day activities globally on Thursday 10 September 2020, Dameyon Bonson, an Indigenous gay male, recognised as an Indigenous suicide prevention subject matter expert, specifically in Indigenous LGBQTI+SB suicide, will be presenting an on-line introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI+SB suicide prevention.

To register for this event click here.Dameyon Bonson banner for on-line Indigenous LGBTIQ+SB suicide prevention course & photo of Dameyon Bonson

SNAICC COVID-19 resources for children

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) has developed a number of resources to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people develop a better understanding of COVID-19 and help children, carers and families get through this difficult time.

For details of the SNAICC COVID-19 resources click here.

young Aboriginal boy

Image source: Health Times.

2020 smoking in pregnancy roudtable summary

An alarming 46% of Indigenous women smoke during pregnancy, 3.6 times the non-Indigenous rate. Serious effects from smoking in pregnancy include obstetric and per-natal complications, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and behavioural and learning problems in children. Maternal tobacco smoking is the most important preventable risk factor for chronic lung disease in offspring. Babies born to smokers are twice as likely to have low birth weight compared to those born to non-smoking mothers, but if the mother quits smoking early in pregnancy the low birth weight risk decreases to non-smoking levels.

The Australian Government Department of Health convened a Smoking and Pregnancy Roundtable discussion in February 2020, chaired by Professor Tom Calma AO. The summary report of the roundtable presentations and discussions, including videos of the presentations, can be found here.

belly of pregnant Aboriginal women breaking a cigarette in half

Image source: Coffs Coast Advocate.

Canberra – ACT

ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women – Council Member

The ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women (MACW) has opened up nominations for the next MACW term, 2021–22.

Members of the Council meet bi-monthly and raise and debate issues which matter most to women and girls in Canberra, as well as advocate for the advancement of women and the opportunities available to them, with the Council then providing strategic advice to the ACT Government as an independent voice.

The ACT MACW are hoping for a diverse range of women to be on the Council and would welcome applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

For further information click here.

silhouette of 10 women holding hands at sunset

Image source: ANU website.

National Stroke Week – 31 August – 6 September 2020

National Stroke Week Become a F.A.S.T. Hero poster - image of man standing against a wooden fence, hand on hip, looking skywards like a hero

Image source: Stroke Foundation website.

World Suicide Prevention Day Thursday 10 September 2020World Suicide Prevention Day & orange & yellow ribbon cross over point hands

Feature Image - Aboriginal boy head in hands

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Survey to review mental health youth services

Mental health youth services survey

If you work or volunteer with an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisations you are invited to participate in a short headspace online survey and share your views on issues of access, engagement and cultural safety of mental health supports for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All participants go into the draw to win a $100 voucher!

To view a survey flyer click here and to access the survey click here.

Young Aboriginal girl crying

Image source: newsinmind.com

NT outreach services improve hearing impairment

Ear and hearing health is vital for overall health and quality of life. Ear disease and associated hearing loss can have long-lasting impacts on education, wellbeing and employment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely than non-Indigenous children to experience ear and hearing problems.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has shown positive results are being achieved by hearing health outreach services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the NT. The report shows that in 2019, 2,156 audiology; 770 ear, nose and throat teleotology; and 1,119 Clinical Nurse Specialist services were provided. Among children and young people who received treatment, 61% had improved hearing loss and 71% had improved hearing impairment.

To access a more detailed summary of the report click here.

Health professional checking ear of Aboriginal boy

Image source: Menzies School of Health Research website.

National cancer screening health worker engagement project

The University of Melbourne is undertaking a project to understand how the primary healthcare workforce engages with the national cancer screening program (bowel, breast and cervical). Findings from the study will lead to the development of materials and initiatives to assist in boosting cancer screening participation.

During the first phase of the project the researchers are interested in interviewing nurses, GPs and Practice Managers to understand more about their role, their go-to-resources when they need more information about the screening programs and resources they would like to have access to.

Everyone that will be interviewed will be reimbursed with a $50 Gift Card. We intend to carry out interviews during the month of September. The interviews will be recorded with your permission.

For information about how to become involved in the project please contact Ebony Verbunt, Research Assistant, University of Melbourne email ebony.verbunt@unimelb.edu.au or phone 0429 928 039.

Aboriginal male & female cartoon figures with ages for breast, bowel, cervical cancer screening tests

Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

COVID-19 information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities survey

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, it has been extremely important to make sure health information about the virus reaches people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Australian Government Department of Health has worked with Indigenous communications agencies to produce a range of communications materials to help share information about the virus and inform communities about how they can stay safe.

You can provide feedback on how effective these campaign materials have been in reaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by taking this survey.

7 Keep Our Mob Safe resource images e.g. posters

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Residential aged care risk assessment urgently required

The AMA has warned urgent improvements in aged care and a coordinated response from all levels of government are needed to prevent the pandemic outbreak in Victorian aged care homes spreading into residential aged care nationwide. The AMA has called for every residential aged care home in Australia to be urgently and comprehensively assessed for its ability to safely care for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Elders hands in carer's hand

Image source: Aged Care Guide.

ACT paves way for raising incarceration age

The Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly has voted to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, paving the way for other jurisdictions to reform an outmoded law which disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

To read the related Amnesty International Australia media release click here.

Aboriginal child's hands on jail barred overlaid with Aboriginal flag.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

COVID-19 vaccine will not be compulsory

Health Minister, Greg Hunt has confirmed that although any potential coronavirus vaccine will be strongly encouraged, it will not be made compulsory.

To read a transcript of Minister Hunt’s interview with David Koch on the Sunrise program click here.

QLD – Cairns or ACT – Canberra

PT Cultural Lead x 1 (Identified Position)

CRANAplus, the peak professional body for health professionals working in remote and isolated areas across Australia, has a vacancy for a Cultural Lead. This identified position, available to Aboriginal, First Nations, and Torres Strait Island people, will collaborate closely with internal and external stakeholders to develop and drive priorities supporting CRANAplus’ Organisational Strategic Plan.

You can view the CRANAplus website here and find details of the Cultural Lead position here.

CRANAplus logo & image of 4-wheel drive in outback

ACT – Canberra

FT Flexible Education Classroom Teacher  x 1 (Identified Position) – 6 months with the possibility of permanency

The ACT Education Directorate is seeking a reflective practitioner who: is able to create dynamic learning environments and authentically personalised education programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; has a demonstrated understanding of trauma and neuroscience informed education practices; and is passionate about inclusion, social justice, innovation and equity. Flexible Education is a community of schools/settings for students with complex and challenging needs including Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre, Muliyan, Boomanulla, the Hospital School, the education program at The Cottage and Distance Education.

For more details about the position click here.

Aboriginal youth and teacher against graffitied wall

Image source: School News Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert: @AMAPresident releases its vision for the future – Delivering Better Care for Patients: The AMA 10-Year Framework for Primary Care Reform

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone has released its vision for the future of primary health care and general practice in post-COVID Australia – Delivering Better Care for Patients: The AMA 10-Year Framework for Primary Care Reform.

General practice is the cornerstone of successful primary health care and the foundation of Australia’s world-class healthcare system.

However, despite agreeing with the rhetoric of the importance of properly funded general practice, successive Governments have overseen a rate of investment in general practice that has not matched the increase in the cost of providing high-quality patient care.

The AMA 10-Year Framework identifies immediate funding goals to ease the financial pressures on general practice, and long-term reforms that should be implemented as part of the Federal Government’s 10-year Primary Health Care Plan.”

Download the AMA 10-Year Framework for Primary Care Reform HERE

Read over 50 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and AMA articles published over the past 8 years HERE

“Government spending on GP services is about $391 per person annually, down from $395 in 2017–2018.

The Australian population is growing, ageing, and developing more complex health needs as chronic disease and mental ill-health continue to increase. General practice funding models must change to meet the needs of the community.

COVID-19 has highlighted the under-funding of general practice for decades. Large financial incentives were needed to keep many practices viable.

Teleheath – an innovation that the AMA has long advocated for – was implemented in the midst of the pandemic to assist access and connection of patients with their usual GP at this time of critical challenge.

The AMA is calling for Federal Government spending on general practice services to be increased to at least a mandated 16 per cent of total health spending as part of a range of reforms to support general practice and improve access to GP care for all patients.

The AMA has made four key recommendations:

  • Primary care reforms to build on the existing GP-led model of primary health care, which deliver high-quality, cost-effective outcomes for patients;
  • The Government to work closely with the AMA and medical profession to develop and implement a suitable funding model to enable the transformation of general practice into a medical home;
  • General practice to be adequately funded to reach its full potential and meet the increasingly complex healthcare needs of the community, involving a mandated 16 per cent of total health spending; and
  • Continued investment in long-term strategies to ensure a sustainable medical workforce.

NACCHO welcomes the new AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid and Vice President, Dr Chris Moy.

The election of Dr Khorshid and Dr Moy at the AMA’s National Conference, follows the conclusion of the two-year term of President Dr Tony Bartone and Vice President Dr Chris Zappala.

Dr Khorshid, an orthopaedic surgeon in Perth and a former AMA WA President, said governments should increase medical, health, and aged care expenditure to combat both COVID-19 and help the economy avoid prolonged recession. “State and Federal Governments have rightly funded the response effort to COVID-19,” Dr Khorshid said.

NACCHO Chair and the NACCHO team congratulate Dr Khorshid and Dr Moy on their election. We look forward to working closely with you on Closing the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Image credit: ABC News

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #ClosingTheGap Health Research : Report calls for increased support for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and acknowledge the importance of bringing focused attention to bear on our primary and preventive health needs

” We strongly support calls for increased support for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and acknowledge the importance of bringing focused attention to bear on primary and preventive health needs within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander towns.

It is difficult to rationalise the poorer access to local inpatient hospital services found here. It cannot be explained by proximity to larger centres or by a lesser need for services, as neither of these are true.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander towns without hospital services within 50 kilometres are all very remote towns in Northern Australia, which experience disproportionately high burdens of morbidity and mortality.

The lack of locally accessible hospital services does not only increase the risk of death and disability, it also contributes to substantial health costs associated with retrieval and relocation to distant centres for hospital care.

Such an initiative is likely to require a combination of federal and state or territory funding and should involve communities in the development and control of these services. “

Disparity in distribution of inpatient hospital services in Australia

First published HERE

The AMA stands with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They suffer health disparities that see them become sicker and die earlier than non-Indigenous Australians.

In usual times, many doctors and medical students would be marching in these protests. We want to see change. “

Read AMA Press Release HERE

The gap that exists between health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non‐Indigenous Australians is multi‐factorial.

Some of the gaps that exist may be attributed to or exacerbated by limitations in access to health services faced by rural and remote towns.

In Australia, 19% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in remote or very remote areas.1

These people have, on average, worse health outcomes than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in urban settings, further amplifying the gap.2

We used census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics1 and jurisdictional and federal health department website data3 to conduct a review of the availability of inpatient hospital services in Australian towns with a population between 1,000 and 4,999, based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA+) classification system.4

We compared towns with a population of more than 80% being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with other towns using Fisher’s exact test for comparison of categorical variables, and a p value <0.05 was considered significant

There are 533 towns in Australia with a population between 1,000 and 4,999 (median population 1,819). Of these, 14 (3%) have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population that accounts for more than 80% of the total population.

The vast majority of these towns either have a hospital with acute inpatient beds (226/533, 42%) or are within 50 kilometres of a nearby hospital (282/533, 53%). Towns with a population of more than 80% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to either have a hospital or be within 50 kilometres of one (5/14, 36% vs 503/519, 97%; <0.001), see Table 1.

The lack of locally accessible hospital services does not only increase the risk of death and disability, it also contributes to substantial health costs associated with retrieval and relocation to distant centres for hospital care.

In such towns where hospital services are not currently available, consideration should be given to developing these concurrently with efforts to improve primary and preventive health care and to facilitate increasing Aboriginal control and strengthening of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce.5

Such an initiative is likely to require a combination of federal and state or territory funding and should involve communities in the development and control of these services.

References download 

1753-6405.12996

 

 

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News and Resources Alert No 63 : May 15 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : The @AMAPresident is calling for extra targeted health policy support to help our mob get through the COVID-19 pandemic

“The $58 million retrieval package announced by Minister Wyatt was a great start to acknowledge the unique health service needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote communities, but more is needed.

Specialised Indigenous health services and programs that respond to the needs of the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in cities and towns must be made a priority and properly funded to provide greater protections coming out of the pandemic,”

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be a high priority in national COVID-19 recovery measures, given their increased vulnerability due to already higher rates of chronic diseases.

” Five online training modules are being developed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals in responding to cases of COVID-19 and support public health efforts to manage outbreaks in remote communities.

The first two modules, ‘Introduction to COVID-19’, and ‘Contact Tracing in Remote Communities’, are now available online.

These modules were developed in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 ” 

See Department of Health news Part 2 Below for the new online training modules for health professionals and resources

“The AMA has strongly welcomed existing measures to help combat COVID-19 in Australia, but they are nowhere near enough to reduce the risks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia,” Dr Bartone said.

“Further targeted approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are needed.

“The AMA recommends a dedicated pool of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations to draw on for specified purposes including the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), point-of-care tests, staffing and consumables, capital expenditure, isolation and quarantine facilities, and satellite and outreach services to address current service gaps.

“Importantly, the amount of funds allocated for this funding pool should be considered on a needs-basis.

“Given Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples comprise three per cent of the total population, and the burden of disease is 2.3 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians, it is reasonable for a benchmark amount of around seven per cent of total COVID-19 health funding be earmarked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Testing is absolutely critical, and it must be an urgent priority to ensure that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service is provided with testing kits, the associated consumables, and the necessary training.

 

Part 2 : Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on coronavirus (COVID-19)

From HERE

New online training modules for health professionals

Five online training modules are being developed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals in responding to cases of COVID-19 and support public health efforts to manage outbreaks in remote communities.

The first two modules, ‘Introduction to COVID-19’, and ‘Contact Tracing in Remote Communities’, are now available online.

These modules were developed in partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19.

Resources toolkit for health professionals

Our amazing health workers are doing an incredible job keeping our communities COVIDSafe, and we all owe them a huge amount of gratitude. Let’s make sure we are supporting our health workers as much as possible. The more we help them, the more they can help us.

The teams at CATSINaM, AIDA, IAHA and NATSIHWA have developed a COVID19 resource toolkit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals.

The pack includes tips and information to help health workers care for themselves, as well as resources to share in community.

Don’t skip your flu shot – protect you and your family from flu

You can share this social media graphic or video to let others in the community know how important it is to get the flu shot.

Professor Tom Calma AO – Get your flu shot
Keep our families safe from violence

Tough times don’t excuse tougher times at home, even in a crisis. There’s no place for abuse or domestic violence.

Look out for people in our communities who may be at risk by:

  • keeping in contact with people
  • checking in to make sure they are OK
  • making sure they don’t feel like they are completely alone and without any support.

If you are worried about your immediate safety, contact 000. For confidential advice and counselling contact 1800 RESPECT.

Three stage plan to ease restrictions and stay COVID safe

The Prime Minister has outlined a 3-step plan to provide a pathway for states and territories to move toward COVIDSafe communities. This plan involves careful steps to ease restrictions while keeping everyone safe and containing the spread of the virus.

Some of the restrictions relating to where we can go in public and how many people we can gather with have already begun to be eased.

The changes are different in each state and territory, so make sure you stay up to date with the latest information on restrictions for your area. You can visit Australia.gov.au for the latest advice, and links to each state and territory.

Biosecurity restrictions remain in place to stop people travelling into remote communities. These restrictions were put in place to protect remote residents especially Elders. It is still very important to stop the virus spreading from cities and towns into remote communities. Information on biosecurity measures in place in remote communities is available at niaa.gov.au.

Even though some restrictions are being eased, we need to keep practising physical distancing (two big steps) and good hygiene to stop the virus from spreading in our homes, workplaces and communities. It is important to remember, if shopping centres or public spaces are overcrowded, making it difficult to practise social distancing guidelines, don’t enter the space. Come back at a time when it is not as busy or crowded. And most importantly of all, stay home if you are have cold or flu symptoms, and get tested for coronavirus.

Sending your kids back to school

Many students will start returning to school and classrooms as the coronavirus restrictions start to ease.

The Chief Medical Officer supported by a team of medical professionals has advised it is safe for children to be at school. This is because levels of the virus have remained low for several weeks in a row and children are at lower risk than adults from this virus.

Information about how schools will operate during this time will be provided by your school. Speak to your local school principal, teacher, or Aboriginal Education officers about any worries you might have.

Talking with kids about Coronavirus

It’s completely normal to be feeling worried and stressed at the moment. It is important to remember that our kids might also be feeling the same.

Their lives have had some big changes and they will be watching adults closely and picking up on moods and behaviours. Talk to kids about how they are feeling, it can help them to feel better too.

Here’s a few tips for talking with young people:

  • Pick your time and place carefully. Think about the best time to chat and in an environment where your child will feel relaxed and comfortable to talk freely. Choose a time when you can give them your full attention.
  • Let them know it’s normal to feel scared or confused about things happening at the moment. Talk in a calm and reassuring tone.
  • Ask questions to find out what your kids already know about the virus. This also helps to find out if they are hearing the wrong information.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and don’t minimise their concerns.
  • Make sure to explain to them that coronavirus has nothing to do with how someone looks or where they are from. Remind them that bullying is wrong.
  • Talk about the strength and connection to culture that we can draw on during this time.
  • Share stories about people who are working hard to keep our community safe, doing this will reassure them and it will comfort them to know that people are taking action.

It’s also important to look after yourself. The better you are coping the more you can help others. If you are feeling worried or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to others in the community for support.

Remind young people that you care, and you’re there for a chat at any time. Keep checking in and make it an ongoing conversation. Visit the Raising Children’s Network for more information.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 49 : April 29 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : This #WorldImmunisationWeek #VaccinesWork providing greater protections for our mob to minimise the possibility that they could contract both #influenza and #COVID19.

” World Immunization Week – celebrated this week April (24 to 30 April) – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions

Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need.

The theme this year is #VaccinesWork for All and the campaign will focus on how vaccines – and the people who develop, deliver and receive them – are heroes by working to protect the health of everyone, everywhere.

2020 campaign objectives

The main goal of the campaign is to urge greater engagement around immunization globally and the importance of vaccination in improving health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life.

As part of the 2020 campaign, WHO and partners aim to:

  • Demonstrate the value of vaccines for the health of children, communities and the world.
  • Show how routine immunization is the foundation for strong, resilient health systems and universal health coverage.
  • Highlight the need to build on immunization progress while addressing gaps, including through increased investment in vaccines and immunization.

“Getting the flu vaccine early will help alleviate pressure on the health system. With many of our health resources focused on saving lives and treating those with COVID-19, we need to reduce the number of presentations for influenza.

We also need to provide greater protections for vulnerable people to minimise the possibility that they could contract both influenza and COVID-19.

The best and safest place to get the flu vaccine is from your GP at your local ACCHO or general practice.”

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone,  reiterated the AMA recommendation that people should get their seasonal flu vaccination somewhat earlier this year to help provide greater individual and community health protection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read full AMA Press Release

Protect your mob and get vaccinated says QAIHC
This World Immunisation Week is an important reminder to ensure that you are up to date with all of your vaccinations.
These includes but is not limited to:
• Hepatitis A
• Pneumococcal disease
• Varicella zoster
• Pertussis.
Make sure you also book in to get your yearly flu vaccination!
Contact your local health service for more information.

About vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to get extra immunisations for free through the National Immunisation Program (NIP) to protect you against serious diseases.

These extra immunisations are in addition to all the other routine vaccinations offered throughout life (childrenadultsseniorspregnancy).

Children aged 5 years old or under

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years or under should receive all routine vaccines under the NIP. You can see a list of these vaccines on the Immunisation for children page.

The Australian Government recommends that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 years or under have the following additional vaccines.

Pneumococcal disease

An additional booster dose of pneumococcal vaccine is recommended and free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months who live in:

  • Queensland
  • Northern Territory
  • Western Australia
  • South Australia.

Visit the Pneumococcal immunisation service page for information on receiving the pneumococcal vaccine.

Hepatitis A

Two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine are given 6 months apart. These doses should be given from 12 months of age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in:

  • Queensland
  • Northern Territory
  • Western Australia
  • South Australia.

The age that both the hepatitis A and pneumococcal vaccines are given varies among the 4 states and territories. Speak to your state or territory health service for more information.

Visit the Hepatitis A immunisation service page for information on receiving the hepatitis A vaccine.

Influenza

The influenza vaccine is free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over through the NIP.

Visit the influenza immunisation service page for information on receiving the influenza vaccine.

Children aged 5 to 9 years old

Influenza

The influenza vaccine is free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over through the NIP.

Visit the influenza immunisation service page for information on receiving the influenza vaccine.

Catch-up vaccines

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 to 9 years should receive any missed routine childhood vaccinations. Catch-up vaccines are free through the NIP. See the NIP Schedule for more information.

Children aged 10 to 15 years

Influenza

The influenza vaccine is free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over through the NIP.

Visit the influenza immunisation service page for information on receiving the influenza vaccine.

Catch-up vaccines

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 10 to 15 years old should receive any missed routine childhood vaccinations. Catch-up vaccines are free through the NIP. See the NIP Schedule for more information.

Other vaccines

All children should receive routine vaccines for children aged 10 to 15 years old. These are HPV (human papillomavirus) and diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis), meningococcal ACWY vaccines given through school immunisation programs.

People aged 15 to 49 years old

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 19 years old should receive any missed routine childhood vaccinations. Catch-up vaccines are free through the NIP. See the NIP Schedule for more information.

Influenza

The influenza vaccine is free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over through the NIP.

Visit the influenza immunisation service page for information on receiving the influenza vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal vaccines are free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 49 years old who are at high risk of severe pneumococcal disease.

Visit the Pneumococcal immunisation service page for information on receiving the pneumococcal vaccine.

People aged 50 years old or more

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years old or more should receive any missed routine childhood vaccinations. Catch-up vaccines are free through the NIP. See the NIP Schedule for more information.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal vaccines are free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years old or over.

Visit the Pneumococcal immunisation service page for information on receiving the pneumococcal vaccine.

Influenza

The influenza vaccine is free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over through the NIP.

Visit the influenza immunisation service page for information on receiving the influenza vaccine.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alert No 11 of 11 March 18 : Contributions @AMAPresident Communique @AMSANTaus Community resources @normanswan Todays Update Plus #MentalHealth care for Health Care Workers

In this special Corona Virus edition 11

1.AMA Communique

1.1 Communication:

1.2 Prevention of spread:

1.3 Vulnerable Communities

1.4 Medical Workforce maintenance and support:

1.5 Protection of access to health care:

2. AMSANT Resources

2.1 INFORMATION FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS

2.2 INFORMATION FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS

2.3 HEALTH PROMOTION INCLUDING HYGIENE RESOURCES

2.4 PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)

2.4 ACCESS TO ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES

2.6 MEDICARE MBS BILLING INFORMATION

2.7 LINKS TO EXTERNAL SITES

3.Dr Norman Swan Update March 18

4.Mental Health care for Health Care Workers

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 11 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1.AMA Communique 

Recognising that Australian Governments, advised by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), have been working to respond to the escalation of COVID-19 in Australia, and that many announced measures, particularly expanded use of medical telehealth services, are yet to be fully optimised, the AMA believes the next stage of responding to COVID-19 requires strong medical leadership.

Communication:

  1. Consistent, succinct and contemporaneous communication across all media from a single trusted source must be provided. The public has been receiving conflicting and inaccurate information about when they need to be tested, and how they should approach testing, and what comprises effective prevention and mitigation strategies. The messaging has been improving, but this confusion is causing undue community distress and system inefficiency.
  2. Involvement of the medical profession at all levels in planning and disseminating the public health message is essential.

Prevention of spread:

  1. The national response should focus on a greater effort to slow the pace of COVID-19’s spread in Australia as a means to ‘flatten the curve’ of the outbreak.
  2. Australia must act to prevent community transmission by: effectively implementing the announced ban on mass public gatherings; encouraging social distancing; and, minimising social contact where alternatives are readily available (such as working from home, virtual meetings). Public education on effective and sensitive public distancing measures should focus on individual as well as institutional responsibilities.
  3. Planning should be undertaken for potential advanced education centre closures, workplace restrictions, and the possibility of school closures.
  4. Measures to ensure essential services and health service providers are adequately stocked and properly trained in the appropriate use of PPE must be an urgent priority. Access for healthcare personnel to sufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is still inadequate.

Vulnerable Communities:

  1. Communities identified as being vulnerable, and in which morbidity and mortality is expected to be higher, include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; people with complex and chronic disease, the elderly, persons in residential aged care; and, rural and remote populations.
  2. We call for the limiting of non-essential travel to Indigenous rural and remote communities and ask that healthcare delivery be culturally safe. We also ask that rural health needs be considered with emerging COVID-19 related policy and care delivery decisions.
  3. Preparation for potential virus spread in aged care must include published action plans for response to concentrated virus outbreak in residential aged care centres or densely populated areas of older Australians to guide preventive and responsive actions for older Australians, aged care workers, the medical and wider health profession, and those with family members in aged care.

Medical Workforce maintenance and support:

  1. The health, safety, and wellbeing of all healthcare workers must be prioritised to maintain healthcare delivery capacity during the response to COVID-19.
  2. Clear and consistent guidance on COVID-19 testing for health care workers is imperative and testing should be prioritised by pathology services to minimise periods off work due to isolation when not infected with COVID-19.
  3. Preparation for a large proportion of the healthcare workforce needing to self-isolate or cease work due to exposure or illness, and resultant consequences for patient access to care, must be urgently addressed.
  4. In order to minimise community spread of COVID-19 and maintain non-pandemic related health service provision, all doctors in private practice should have immediate access to telehealth for treatment of all patients, not just for screening and treatment of potential COVID-19 infection.
  5. Doctors in private practice, both GPs and other specialists, must be involved in planning and implementation of the COVID-19 response, and clear, accessible and authoritative communication lines must be established.
  6. Extraordinary workforce measures such as recruiting retired or semi-retired doctors and other health workers; reassigning healthcare workers including doctors out of their usual clinical fields; and, utilising medical students as physician extenders or clinical aides must be undertaken only with due consideration of clinical outcomes, personal and community safety outcomes, and without coercion.
  7. Consideration of means to maintain the adequate education, assessment, and continuous professional development of all doctors, including those in training and medical students, is essential as is considering the impact of pandemic related workforce and training disruption on the continuing visa status of internationally trained doctors.
  8. There must be planning for follow-up personal support for all health workers to ensure ongoing psychological wellbeing after this crisis has passed.

Protection of access to health care:

  1. A clear plan for the usual care of patients is needed for patients without COVID-19. It is essential that patients with other pressing clinical needs can access timely care.
  2. The role of the Private Health system in relieving health system pressure due to COVID-19 needs to be included in planning efforts. Releasing the public hospital system from dealing with less acute health problems will help sustain access but will require whole of health sector coordination. For example, it is possible that public elective surgery may need to pause to enable capacity of the public hospital system to receive patients with COVID-19.

The AMA in 2016 called for establishment of a national Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The challenges currently being faced by the Australian community underscores the need for strengthened national coordination of pandemic response capability. Establishment of a CDC is essential at the conclusion of this current emergency.


This AMSANT webpage is a collation of resources to support member services, health professionals and community members relating to COVID-19.  AMSANT will continue to update resources as information becomes available.

Please do not hesitate to contact liz.moore@amsant.org.au if you require additional information.

INFORMATION FOR COMMUNITY MEMBERS
HEALTH PROMOTION INCLUDING HYGIENE RESOURCES
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
ACCESS TO ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES
MEDICARE MBS BILLING INFORMATION
3.Dr Norman Swan Update March 16

4.Mental health care for healthcare workers

For health workers, feeling under pressure is a likely experience for you and many of your health worker colleagues. It is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a reflection that you cannot do your job or that you are weak. Managing your mental health and psychosocial wellbeing during this time is as important as managing your physical

Take care of yourself at this time. Try and use helpful coping strategies such as ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical wellbeing.

This is a unique and unprecedent scenario for many workers, particularly if they have not been involved in similar responses. Even so, using strategies that have worked for you in the past to manage times of stress can benefit you now. You are most likely to know how to de-stress and you should not be hesitant in keeping yourself psychologically This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Some healthcare workers may unfortunately experience avoidance by their family or community due to stigma or fear. This can make an already challenging situation far more difficult. If possible, staying connected with your loved ones including through digital methods is one way to maintain contact. Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support- your colleagues may be having similar experiences to

Use understandable ways to share messages with people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities. Forms of communication that do not rely solely on written information should be utilized If you are a team leader or manager in a health

Know how to provide support to, for people who are affected with COVID-19 and know how to link them with available resources. This is especially important for those who require mental health and psychosocial support. The stigma associated with mental health problems may cause reluctance to seek support for both COVID-19 and mental health conditions.

The mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide includes clinical guidance for addressing priority mental health conditions and is designed for use by general health workers.

Download 

mental-health-considerations

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #RuralHealth : @RuralDoctorsAus President and CEO says quality rural and remote health care essential to #ClosingtheGap

“Both Federal and State governments, right across the country, need to step up and invest in rural health if they are serious about this.

There have been numerous examples of initiatives developed to improve access to health care in rural and remote areas being extended into urban areas to prop up under-funded services in for the socially disadvantaged.

This has resulted in the unintended consequence of further disadvantaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural and remote Australia.

We need continued investment in health infrastructure and services aimed at addressing the disparity in health outcomes between those who live in the city and those who live in the bush… and this extends across both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Without this, as a nation we are never going to close the gap, and the divide for the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people living in rural and remote Australia will never be addressed.”

Dr John Hall, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), said that without access to high quality health services in rural areas, the gap will never close.

Photo above : Here is what GPs said about working in Indigenous health

” I’m particularly concerned with successive government failure to halve Indigenous child mortality rates.

A lot of this is about access, it’s around health literacy.

It’s also about the holistic care, it’s also around education, housing and a whole range of other things”.

Australia needs to boost hospital and birthing facilities in rural and regional areas in order to overcome entrenched Indigenous health disadvantage, according to Rural Doctors Association of Australia CEO Peta Rutherford told SkyNews .

Watch SkyNews interview HERE 

Read over 70 Aboriginal Rural and Remote Health NACCHO Articles HERE

Another disappointing Closing the Gap Report, released this month [12 February 2020], demonstrates why health care in rural and remote Australia is a key driver to Closing the Gap in health.

“The Government’s Closing the Gap Report 2020 showed that the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on key health indicators has not closed,” Dr Hall said.

“Two key health-related benchmarks were chosen by the

Government in 2008, with a target of halving the gap in child mortality by 2018, and to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031.

“Neither of these targets are on track.

“The main cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child deaths are perinatal conditions such as complications of pregnancy and birth.

“With 85 per cent of these deaths occurring during the first year of life, maternal health and risk

factors during pregnancy play a crucial role.

“Access to quality, culturally safe, medical care is the most direct way of improving these outcomes,” Dr Hall said.

Similarly, life expectancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is strongly influenced by health and health care, with the report attributing 34 per cent of the gap to social determinants (such as education, employment status, housing and income), 19 per cent to behavioural risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use and diet), leaving 47 per cent attributed to what is clearly a disparity in health outcomes and associated health care issues.

In rural and remote areas there is a noticeable difference of a more than six year reduction in life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females, when compared to those living in major cities.

This demonstrates a failure across the board in these key areas, all of which are influenced by the provision of quality health care.

“Clearly we can’t close the gap without a functional health system in rural and remote Australia,” Dr Hall said.

“And this cannot just be solved through funding Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS); the other parts of the health system need to be equally funded to service these communities in order to be able to provide the standard of care that will result in a reduction in the gap in health outcomes.

“We can’t have hospital services downgraded and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have communities with no access to medical birthing services and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have people needing to travel hundreds of kilometres to access cancer or surgical treatment and close the gap.

“We need quality rural hospitals, staffed by Rural Generalist doctors, with the skills needed to meet the needs of these communities in both the General Practice and hospital settings, if we are serious about improving health outcomes and actually closing the gap.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Budget2020 submission downloads : Both the @AMAPresident and @_PHAA_feature strong support for our #ACCHO’s and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

” The AMA is calling on the Federal Government to significantly increase recurrent spending on health to properly meet current and future demand for quality care and services in the Australian health system.

Releasing the AMA’s Pre-Budget submission for the 2020-21 Federal Budget, AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, said today that the AMA wants the Government to lift spending from its current level of 9.3 per cent to a level in line with comparable countries.

From Page 17

Over recent years, there have been some modest health gains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, notably, the reductions in rates of child mortality and smoking. Despite this progress, the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is still significant.

Chronic diseases are a primary contributor to the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, many of which, stem from the social determinants of health

– poverty; unhygienic, overcrowded living conditions; poor food security and access to safe drinking water; lack of transport; as well as an absence of health services.

To make any significant progress in improving health and life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, these social determinants must be addressed. This should be done through culturally appropriate programs that are responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

From AMA 2020-21 Budget submission : Read Indigenous health support Page 17 or in full Part 1 Below

Read full AMA Press Release

Download full AMA submission

AMA_Budget_Submission_2020_21

Major efforts have been undertaken in recent decades to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health. Life expectancy has increased notably, from levels well below those enjoyed by Australia’s non-Indigenous population.

There have been encouraging reductions in mortality rates from chronic diseases. Correspondingly, between 2012 and 2017 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy at birth rose by over 2 years.

Nonetheless, it is vital that effort to maintain the increase in life expectancy is reinforced, as the gap in overall life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians remains largely unchanged.

It is unacceptable that, according to the 2019 Closing the Gap report, “The target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track” (p122, emphasis added), and it is widely believed that the target cannot be achieved within the CTG timeframe.

It is urgent that the underlying causes of the gap are addressed. This must involve deliberate, coordinated and long-term commitments, developed and delivered with and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Finally, noting the vital need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to lead health and other initiatives central to their own health, PHAA supports the funding of programs that are initiated and run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). “

From PHHA 2020-21 Budget submission : Read Indigenous health support Page 16 or in full Part 2 Below

Download the full PHAA Submission

Commonwealth Budget 2020-21 – pre-Budget directions

Part 1

The 2020-21 Budget presents an opportunity for the Government to translate available knowledge into action, including identifying and filling service gaps, and directing Indigenous health funding according to need.

This is particularly important given that the burden of disease for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is 2.3 times higher than for other Australians.

AMA POSITION

The AMA calls on the Government to:

  • allocate Indigenous health funding in the 2019-20 budget based on the much higher health needs of Indigenous communities, recognising that chronic disease is inextricably connected to the social determinants of health; and
  • implement the recommendations of the AMA’s recent Report Cards on Indigenous Health, in particular:

+ commit to achieving a minimum standard of 90 per cent population access to fluoridated water;

+ systematically identify, cost and fund unimplemented parts of the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023;

+ implement a coordinated national response to address chronic otitis media in Indigenous communities;

+ fund and implement a strategy to eradicate rheumatic heart disease from Australia; and

+ appropriately fund services that divert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison.

Part 2

Serious health care challenges remain for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Rheumatic heart disease remains a massive concern.

Alarmingly, mortality from cancer is actually rising, and the ‘gap’ in cancer mortality compared with the general population is actually growing. Rates of suicide remain far too high.

The health conditions of young Indigenous Australians should be a key focus. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a younger age profile than the general population, having a median age of 23 compared with 38 (as at the 2016 Census). Over 60% of Indigenous people are aged under 30.

There are a number of current programs working to prevent illness in very young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people between 5 and 8 years old.

However, there is a major lack of targeted attention to people from the adolescent years through to around age 25.

This broad age group is formative of many lifelong health problems. Illnesses related to consumption habits (smoking, alcohol, sugar-added products and junk food) resulting in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, oral health problems, as well as mental health problems often have their genesis in this neglected period of adolescence and young adulthood.

Specifically, the evidence of a link between hearing loss in childhood and subsequent incarceration of Aboriginal people is overwhelming.

A program that has demonstrated the success of an Aboriginal controlled and led model is the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program.

The initiative to reduce smoking rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has made valuable progress but more is required to close the gap in smoking rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

Major initiatives in illness prevention are required to improve the wellbeing of adolescent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by:

  • reducing the suicide rate
  • reducing use of alcohol and other drugs
  • reducing tobacco use, with targets including:
  • reducing age 15-17 smoking rates from 19% to 9%
  • increasing age 15-17 ‘never-smoked’ rates from 77% to 91%
  • increasing annual health check for people aged 15-24
  • reducing rates of juvenile incarceration, through programs such as justice reinvestment programs should aim to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and the wider Australian population in all health metrics

Environmental factors also impact on health and wellbeing. Programs to improve environmental health help prevent eye and ear health problems which are more prevalent in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Rheumatic heart disease, including acute rheumatic fever, is almost exclusively experienced within Australia by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is also associated with poverty, poor and overcrowded living conditions and poor hygiene.

We note that the current National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, due to remain in effect until 2023, has not in fact been adequately funded to achieve its outputs.

One very obvious place for the Government to start in the coming Budget is to repair this defect. T

his would be consistent with the priorities, established by the COAG Joint Council on Closing the Gap co-chaired by the Pat Turner AM and the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, to accelerate improvements in life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by:

  • developing and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding their ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap
  • building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector to deliver closing the gap services and programs in agreed priority areas
  • ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the

PHAA urges Government to adopt substantive and durable commitments aligned with the priorities identified by the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF), the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations advocating for Indigenous health and wellbeing, which include:

  • “Promote self-determination across national institutions, through Constitutional reform and the recommendations that arose from the Uluru Statement from the Heart;
  • Close the gap in life expectancy and the disproportionate burden of disease that impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through system-wide investment approach for the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, with COAG Health Council;
  • Prioritises and escalates actions under the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Plan – to address the massive shortfall in this workforce across all professions and levels, and is essential to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing; and
  • Acknowledge the adverse impact of racism on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and aspects of the health system that prevent people from accessing and receiving the health care they require – and to work with the NHLF and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts in embedding co-design and co-decision making processes to embed culturally safe and responsive health practices and ”

Finally, noting the vital need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to lead health and other initiatives central to their own health, PHAA supports the funding of programs that are initiated and run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).