feature tile text 'strong family relationships prove to be perinatal mental health protective factor' & photo of Aboriginal woman's hands above & below pregnant belly

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Perinatal mental health protective factors

feature tile text 'strong family relationships prove to be perinatal mental health protective factor' & photo of Aboriginal woman's hands above & below pregnant belly

Perinatal mental health protective factors

A recent Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) and Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) paper that retrospectively analysed 91 perinatal mental health assessments from the Kimberley region found that almost all of the women had protective factors and these appeared to contribute to them not having anxiety or depression even if they had significant risk factors. The most prominent protective factor was positive relationships with family members.

The study found that for Aboriginal women, it is important that the health professional explores a woman’s whole context; that is, the way she experiences stress and risk and how her protective factors support her. This will help the woman and her health professional best understand and support her mental health and wellbeing. Assessing Aboriginal women’s perinatal mental health by only looking at risk is not enough.

Plain language reports and a link to the paper are available on the KAMS research website which can be accessed by clicking here.

black and white image of adult Aboriginal hand holding sleeping Aboriginal baby's hand

Image source: Centre of Perinatal Excellence website.

AHCWA launches Mappa platform

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), in conjunction with its 23 member Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) and associated communities have initiated the development and launch of the Mappa platform live to all Western Australians.

Mappa is a free-to-use online mapping platform developed to address the lack of clarity at all levels in regards to healthcare services being delivered across rural, remote and metropolitan regions throughout WA. Mappa provided comprehensive, culturally appropriate and reliable information for health services, health professionals, patients, clients and their communities.

Mappa brings three worlds together: the patient/client journey world; the healthcare world; and the technology world. In doing this, the mapping platform seeks to help those who are not technology savvy and/or have English as a second or third language, busy healthcare providers, clinicians, GPs, allied healthcare providers and those who want an easy way to find a place, a community or a healthcare service and to know how long it will take to get there.

Mappa is about ‘getting the right care, in the right place, at the right time‘, while being with family, at home and on country.

To view the article about the Mappa platform in The West Australian – New Directions in Telehealth liftout (page 3) click here.

To access the Live Mappa Link click here.Mappa Mapping Health Services Closer to Home banner with vector of tree and tree roots in a teardrop pointing to a place on a map

NACCHO supports HIV Awareness Week

NACCHO supports the World Aids Day 2020 theme ‘now, more than ever’ saying it is time to close the gap on rates of HIV notifications amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities in Australia. NACCHO believes as per the National Agreement on Closing the Gap that there is a real opportunity to take Aboriginal-led approaches and partnerships to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.

NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey said, “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face unique issues and social determinants that affect health outcomes, including overcrowded housing. We have demonstrated that a partnership and commitment from the Australian Government’s Departments of Health with NACCHO and direct funding for ACCHOs to address the syphilis outbreak has produced some positive outcomes.”

To read NACCHO’s media release click here.banner text U and Me Can STOP HIV with red, aboriginal flag & Torres Strait Islander flag coloured HIV awareness ribbons

8,000 Katherine patients without GP

Katherine’s only general practice closed its doors last month, leaving the 8,000 patients on its books with no other option but to travel three hours to Darwin for a GP consultation. The decision to close was not an easy one for GP and practice owner Dr Peter Spafford – who has been a resident of the NT town for 19 years and owner of Gorge Health for 10 – but he felt he had no other option.
 
A 2018 workforce assessment conducted by the NT Primary Health Network (PHN) recommended the town, with a population of almost 10,000, needed nine GPs to provide a service equal to elsewhere in Australia. The reality on the ground, however, has been just two GPs, four at best. Constant waitlists have meant there’s always been a difficulty in providing full GP services to the community.

The solution, according to RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements, is multifaceted and requires a whole-of-system approach that considers everything from housing security and spousal employment to children’s education and the training environment.

To view the full article click here.

road sign Kathering 90 Alice Springs 1263

Image source: newsGP website.

Making the invisible visible

After more than 12 months of hard work, consultation and collaboration, the RACGP has launched a reconciliation action plan (RAP) as part of its vision of a healthcare system free of racism.
 
Designed to help establish a culturally safe organisation that supports continuous education and learning for staff and members, the RAP has been praised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within and outside of the college. The plan involves a commitment to improving the knowledge, skills and abilities required to deliver culturally responsive health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which relies on a culturally inclusive and safe environment with strong relationships based on mutual respect.

To view The RACGP Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan October 2020 – September 2022 click here.

To view the related article published in newsGP click here.

Aboriginal woman with Aboriginal face paint looking sideways against a background of blue and white Aboriginal dot and line painting

Image source: newsGP.

World Scabies Program launched

The recently launched World Scabies Program (WSP), headed by Professor Andrew Steer, based on key research by Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute (MCRI), conducted in partnership with the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) and the Kirby Institute of UNSW Sydney, has shown that scabies prevalence can be reduced by more than 90% with a single community wide treatment.

Scabies is a parasitic infestation of the skin with the parasitic ‘itch mite’ Sarcoptes scabiei. The tiny mite burrows into the upper layers of the skin causing intensely itchy lesions which commonly become infected with bacteria and can lead to more serious conditions such and kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease. In humans, scabies is a particularly significant disease in children, but occurs in both sexes, at all ages, in all ethnic groups, and at all socioeconomic levels. Transmission of the mites from one person to the next is by direct skin to skin contact. Scabies is a significant disease worldwide in humans, wildlife, livestock and domestic animals and is a particularly serious problem in many remote Australia Indigenous communities, where overcrowded living conditions are a major factor contributing to high rates of transmission.

Fiji will be one of the first countries in the world to roll out a nationwide scabies elimination program and will be a model for other countries. Approximately one in every five Fijians is at risk of having scabies at any given time, with children at a higher risk. WSP will scale up this approach to the whole population of Fiji, with an aim to essentially eliminate scabies as a public health problem.

To learn more about the World Scabies Program click here.

scabies mite under a microscope

The scabies mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. Image source: SBS NITV website.

2021 Eye Health Conference abstracts open

Abstract submissions are now open for the 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC): The Gap and Beyond. The conference will bring elements from the postponed Close the Gap for Vision National Conference 2020 and, in 2021, will be delivered fully online.

The conference will be held virtually from 20–22 April 2021 with abstracts welcome from all working in, or interested in, improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. Topics should be relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and efforts to close the gap for vision and ultimately eliminate avoidable vision loss and blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. This could include eye care in primary care; eye care stakeholder collaborations; community-led and cultural engagement approaches and initiatives; workforce development; challenges in coordination and case management; improving outcomes and access to services; health system changes and reform.

For more information about abstract submissions click here. The closing date for abstract submissions is Monday 18 January 2021.banner 2021 National ATSI Eye Health Conference The Gap & Beyond 20-22 April 2021

First signs of ear disease at 8 weeks

Telethon Kids Institute researchers have found close to 40% of Aboriginal babies begin to develop middle ear infections between 2–4 months of age in a first of its kind study in metropolitan Perth. By 6–8 months this increased to over 50% of kids according to results published in Deafness and Educational International, clearly demonstrating the urgent need to prioritise early testing and treatment for Aboriginal children suffering debilitating ear infections, also known as otitis media (OM).

Clinical Associate Professor Deborah Lehmann AO, Honorary Emeritus Fellow at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, based at Telethon Kids Institute, said 650,000 Australian children are affected by OM each year and Aboriginal children have some of the highest rates in the world. “While our previous research has already shown Aboriginal children are disproportionately impacted by chronic ear disease, most studies have focused on kids in regional and remote areas and information about the true burden of OM in urban areas was very limited,” Professor Lehmann said.

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal woman with Telethon Kids Institute logo on shift with Aboriginal man holding Aboriginal baby standing outside of a building

Image source: Telethon Kids Institute.

NACCHO CEO makes Australians who mattered list

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner has made the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend’s second annual 40 Australians Who Mattered list for her contribution to social justice. Pat’s citation says ‘For decades Pat Turner has being a passionate voice for Aboriginal equality and self-determination, inside and outside governments, particularly in the field of Indigenous health. Her strong leadership was highlighted this year in her role as the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together more than 50 Indigenous community peak organisations. In July, Turner stood beside Prime Minister Scott Morrison to launch a new national agreement on Closing the Gap, which is supposed to make Indigenous-run organisations central to programs to reduce disadvantage in communities.

“She’s one of the most experienced public servants in Australia,” says federal Labor frontbencher and Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney. “She’s had an incredibly distinguished career spanning both community and government. She shows a willingness to speak truth to power, she understands how governments work and is absolutely committed to driving a proper partnership with Aboriginal people in relation to Closing the Gap.”

To view the full article click here.

portrait shot of Pat Turner sitting in a chair looking directly at the camera, hand to her cheek

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Activism against gender-based violence video  

Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-op has contributed to a video telling the story of what a gender equitable future looks like and the need to call out disrespect, sexism and discrimination. The video, produced with funding from Respect Victoria and the City of Ballarat, is part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence global campaign to end gender-based violence. The campaign is book-ended by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November and International Human Rights Day on 10 December. These days were chosen in order to emphasise that violence against women is a human rights violation. 

To view the article about the video’s launch click here, and to view the video click here.banner with text '16 Days of Activism Respect Women: Call It Out' with vector images of people holding up letters that make up words 'Respect is....'

Dialysis trial focusing on culture

Bluey Roberts had been undergoing dialysis treatment in Adelaide’s major hospitals for the past three years. This year, however, he said things have changed for the better. “It’s more like home here,” Mr Roberts said while overlooking a smoking fireplace at Kanggawodli, a short-term accommodation facility in Adelaide’s north-west for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across Australia.

Until recently, the site didn’t provide dialysis treatment options — but a trial of on-site facilities has seen immediate results, boosting attendance for vital services. For Bluey, a Ngarrindjeri elder and revered artist whose work features at institutions including the Art Gallery of SA, home is several hours’ drive away. But health difficulties linked to his dialysis needs left him in a challenging spot. “I wasn’t too good when I first came but I’m not too bad now, sort of settled down and got a lot better with my dialysis,” he says.

The six-month SA Health pilot of stationing dialysis machines at Kanggawodli makes it the only treatment location outside of a hospital in a metropolitan setting. Kanggawodli Manager Wade Allan said traditional owners often find hospitals overwhelming and alienating, which results in patients not committing to ongoing treatment.

To view the full article click here.

#swab4mob campaign launch

The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) has partnered with The National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) and other Aboriginal organisations to launch #swab4mob; a campaign aimed at urging Aboriginal communities to protect their families by getting COVID-19 testing if they feel unwell. While there is currently no available COVID-19 vaccine or cure, it is essential that continued testing rates are maintained to help with community control of the virus and assist with contact tracing.

AH&MRC CEO Robert Skeen stated: “The collective voice of Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal health organisations play an important role to help people maintain COVID-19-safe behaviours and high testing rates while there is no cure or vaccine available for COVID-19. Wash your hands, wear a mask in crowded areas, and if you are feeling unwell, even just a slightly, play your part to protect your Community and get a COVID-19 test.”

To view AH&MRC’s press release about the #swab4mob launch click here and to view the #swab4mob video click here.image from swab4mob video David Follent Chairman NAATSHIHWP

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Reconciliation Barometer shows heightened racism in 2020

feature tile reconciliation barometer 2020 and feet below marchers with flag we can health together

Reconciliation Barometer shows racism heightened in 2020

The 2020 Australian Reconciliation Barometer—a national research study conducted by Reconciliation Australia every two years—shows that the global and local Black Lives Matter movements have challenged  experiences and understanding of racism in Australia. “This year’s Barometer shows more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reporting an incident of racial prejudice than the 2018 barometer,” said Reconciliation Australia CEO, Karen Mundine. “Just over half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents reported to have experienced at least one form of racial prejudice in the last six months.”

“More Australians now agree with the statement that ‘Australia is a racist country’, a rise across the board in understanding how racism operates. In 2020 we have seen increasing political and social polarisation due to uncertainty and disruption from COVID-19. Through the 2020 Barometer we hear many more people speaking up, speaking the truth, asking the hard questions, seeing the hard facts, and moving from a space of safe to brave on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

You can view the full 2020 Reconciliation Barometer report, including a summary of the report, by clicking here.

group of Aboriginal girls with Deadly choices t-shirts

Image source: Reconciliation Australia website.

Permanent telehealth model being developed

The AMA will work with the Federal Government to make Medicare-funded telehealth a permanent part of the Australian healthcare system. Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the partnership approach during a joint media conference with AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid. “The AMA has been working with the Government on how to embed telehealth into the Australian healthcare system for months,” Dr Khorshid said. “The AMA has long advocated for telehealth consultations to be subsidised under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). “The temporary COVID-19 arrangements have allowed us to test the model, and shown where refinements can be made. MBS-funded telehealth has been embraced by doctors and patients alike.”

To view the AMA’s media release regarding the model click here.

man on mobile phone pointing to Aboriginal hand on computer screen

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Nurses support public drunkenness decriminalisation

Victoria is close to the decriminalisation of public drunkenness, three decades since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody first made the recommendation. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has welcomed the Andrews Government’s decision to review all recommendations of its Expert Reference Group’s report Seeing the clear light of day. The report reinforces that no one should be in a police cell just because they are intoxicated. ANMF supports the two-year implementation period which will enable the Andrews Government to develop a public health model response to replace the jail cell. The implementation period will include trial sites before rolling the approach out across the state.

To view the ANMF (Victorian Branch) media release click here.

Daughters Apryl Watson and Kimberly Watson with photos of their mother Tanya Day outside Coroners Court.

Daughters Apryl Watson and Kimberly Watson with photos of their mother Tanya Day (who was arrested under the public drunkenness law in Victoria and latter died in custody) outside Coroners Court. Image source: The Age.

Mental health lessons from 2020

Menal Illness Education ACT will co-host a stimulating panel discussion on Wednesday 2 December 1.00pm–2.20pm (AEDT) to unpack how paid and unpaid workloads have changed in 2020 and the impacts on wellbeing, particularly for women. The discussion will cover the following topics:

  • We will look at the positives and challenges coming out of the current environment. 
  • Discuss how roles have changed from a range of perspectives and how we have and can respond to those changes as individuals, partners and organisations.
  • Provide strategies and resources on how to identify and respond to the shifting balance.

This session is for everyone, whether you are single, in a couple, a parent or a carer.

The event will be held on Teams. To register pleas click here.tile Lessons from 2020 strategies to balance the mental load

Stolen Generations bus back on healing mission

Bus operator CDC NSW has committed to a partnership in support of Australia’s indigenous people’s ‘Stolen Generations truth telling’. In cementing its partnership with Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) during its first KBHAC Mobile Education Centre (MEC) community visit post COVID-19, CDC NSW driver Mikhail Mikhail steered the MEC bus to a Healing Session at Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) in Little Bay, where it was unveiled to a group of Kinchela Boy’s Home survivors and AH&MRC staff. The MEC – a converted commuter bus nicknamed ‘Benny’ featuring an audio-visual system and printed historical information on Stolen Generations – is the first of its kind and integral to helping KBHAC members tell their stories in a range of locations. To read the full article click here.

Stolen Generations bus

Image source: Australasian Bus & Coach website.

Urgent need to close digital divide

New analysis commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) shows that urgent action is needed to address the digital divide in remote Indigenous communities in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns. While much of the nation turned to digital services such as videoconferencing and telehealth during the rolling lockdowns put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic, very few remote Indigenous communities were able to work or learn from home, or access government and health services online.

With access by service providers limited by travel restrictions, many people were left without access to essential services. In some remote communities, the Wi-Fi hotspot, the only point of access, was switched off to avoid people congregating. “COVID-19 saw communities without food and necessities of life because of the lack of access to adequate, reliable, and robust telecommunications,” said ACCAN Board Member and proud Torres Strait Islander, Dr Heron Loban.

To view the full article click here.

3 Aboriginal women and two Aboriginal children with iPad outdoors sand

Image source: sarahharroldblog wbsite.

Pius X win training awards

In a first for Moree, staff of Pius X Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) have made a clean sweep of GP Synergy’s New England/North West GP training awards, taking out all three regional awards on offer. Pius X’s practice manager Ros Rose was named Practice Manager of the Year, GP supervisor Dr Hamze Hamze was named Supervisor of the Year and GP in training Dr Nada Abu Alrub was named Registrar of the Year in GP Synergy’s New England/North West GP training awards.

To read the full article click here.

3 Pius X staff holding bunch of flowers each and award certificates

Pius X’s GP in training Dr Nada Abu Alrub, practice manager Ros Rose and GP supervisor Dr Hamze Hamze. Image source: Moree Champion News.

COVID-19 vaccination survey

Do you provide immunisations? Do you transport vaccinations or receive them in your workplace? Do you work in rural or remote settings?

Finally, some good COVID-19 news, there have been some positive outcomes in the race outcomes in the race for the COVID-19 vaccine. Nurses, midwives, doctors and Aboriginal Health Practitioners working in primary health care will be very busy in 2021. They will be at the coalface of health promotion, allaying people’s fears, and organising the immunisation logistics to protect their communities. The focus will be on those most at risk, the elderly, men, and the health workforce.

Scaling-up rapid mass immunisation means more trained staff will be needed to administer the vaccinations and provide transportation logistics. The cold chain is only as effective as its ‘weakest’ link. There are many people involved in vaccine cold chain to rural and remote communities, some of whom do not routinely receive training in relation to medicines storage, such as transport drivers, Aboriginal Health Workers, and administration staff.

Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association have made a training video, telling the story of a vaccine’s journey from a supply centre to administration in a remote Aboriginal community, and would like your feedback. Please view the video here and then take 2–3 minutes to complete the 13 question survey here.

image from vaccine journey video. cartoon of cold box being handed between people

Image source: CARPA Inc. Vaccine Story video slide.

60% in remote communities have hearing loss

Chronic ear disease contributes to widespread hearing loss among Indigenous people in Australia. In 2020 it was found 40% of Indigenous people have hearing loss, 60% in remote communities with 79% of people with hearing loss not knowing they did not hear as well as others. Dr Damien Howard and Jody Barney have produced a new video on Indigenous hearing loss. To view the video click here. To take the 13 question survey (approved by the NT Department of Health and Menzies School of Health Research) click here.

cartoon of Aboriginal woman trying to hear on a telephone

Grow Local Cert IV in Mental Health

Despite the challenges this year due to COVID-19, Grow Local participants have worked hard towards completing their Grow Local Certificate IV in Mental Health, meaning communities throughout Western Australia will have additional mental health support available to those who may be struggling. The program has proven to not only be an effective way of meeting these community needs, but also a popular one, with more than 60 participants graduating in towns throughout the state in the coming weeks. The training is provided to community in partnership with the Australian Medical Association (WA), along with support from local organisations including Milligan House, who offered the use of their meeting rooms for the monthly workshops.

To view the WA Primary Health Alliance media release click here.

The World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast is tomorrow

Event begins tomorrow at 7:20am AEDT (for 7:30am start) via Zoom https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81494660983

Each year we ask international and Australian HIV/AIDS experts to share their perspectives on HIV/AIDS in the world and our country, and the outlook for the future. We hope you will find their articles interesting and informative.

Please see the link to the World AIDS Day booklet here.

SA – can be based anywhere across SA – Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc.

Systems Implementation Coordinator Aboriginal disAbility Alliance

SA West Coast ACCHO Network (SAWCAN) is a consortia supporting 4,976 Aboriginal people in a region that stretches from Whyalla in the east, right over to the WA border. Nunyara is acting as the lead agent of the consortia and is seeking to employ a suitably qualified person as the Systems Implementation Coordinator to apply a systems-focused approach in the capacity building of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) staff to ensure the seamless integration of NDIS within the comprehensive primary health care model.

To view the job description click here.

Applications close 5.00pm Wednesday 9 December 2020.

SA – Whyalla – Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc.

FT Community Activator – 12 month contract

The Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service is an RACGP accredited service that provides culturally appropriate health care, health promotion and education programs for the Aboriginal community in Whyalla. Nunyara is looking to engage an energetic and motivated person to work as a Community Activator within the Aboriginal disAbility Alliance project. This position will provide assertive outreach and advocacy to Aboriginal people living with a disability, their families and carers in a culturally sensitive manner, breaking down barriers to accessing the NDIS and developing trust and rapport.

To view the job description click here.

Applications close 5.00pm Friday 11 December 2020.Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc. logo

ACT – Canberra – Bimberi Residential Services

FT Family Engagement Officer – temporary

Bimberi Residential Services is seeking an experienced, committed and suitably qualified person to fill the Family Engagement Officer role.

The Family Engagement Officer is designed to assist with the engagement of young people and their families and to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices and perspectives, in the day to day functions across Bimberi Residential Services. The role also is involved in promoting initiatives and developing innovative approaches to meeting client and program needs.

To view the job description click here.

Applications close Friday 11 December 2020.

external view of Bimberi Youth Dentention Centre ACT

Image source: ABC News website.

NSW – Dubbo – Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service

FT Psychologist – 2 year contract, possibility of extension

Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS) is seeking an enthusiastic and committed person to fill a full-time position of Psychologist within the highly successful Aboriginal community-controlled organisation Dubbo Regional Aboriginal Health Service (DRAHS) Social & Emotional Wellbeing Department. This is a busy clinical role working with clients to prevent, diagnose and treat psychological issues within a health clinic in NSW.

To view the job description click here.

Applications close Friday 11 December 2020.

ACT – Canberra – OzChild

OzChild, an organisation established to support vulnerable children and young people by providing healing, preventing abuse and neglect, and strengthening families so all children and young people are safe, respected, and nurtured, and reach their full potential, is looking to employ a Family Practitioner and a Team Leader in their Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program. Both roles will strengthen the benefit of services to children, young people and their families in specified areas utilising an evidence based program. This evidence-based program has been developed to support families, with children and youth aged 12 to 18 years, in the home and the community. To view the position descriptions for the roles click on the role titles below.

Family Practitioner – Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Team Leader – Functional Family Therapy

To apply, please contact the OzChild HR advisor Paul Ridley by phone 03 9695 2243 or to email click here.two Aboriginal young girls, one kissing the other on the cheek, OzChild logo

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: ‘Game changer’ e-prescriptions are coming

feature tile - Aboriginal hands in pharmacy clicking iPad

‘Game-changer’ e-prescriptions are coming

Electronic prescriptions (or e-prescriptions) are being rolled out in stages across Australia after being used in Victoria during the pandemic. E-prescriptions have been common in countries such as the United States and Sweden for more than ten years. In Australia, a fully electronic paperless system has been planned for some time. Since the arrival of COVID-19, and a surge in the uptake of telehealth, the advantages of e-prescriptions have become compelling. To read more about what e-prescriptions are, how they work, their benefits and what they mean for paper prescriptions click here.

feature tile - Aboriginal hands in pharmacy clicking iPad

Image source: Australian Pharmacist.

Electronic prescription roll out expanded

The big news in digital health in recent weeks has been the expansion of Australia’s roll out of electronic prescriptions to metropolitan Sydney, following the fast-track implementation in metropolitan Melbourne and then the rest of Victoria as a weapon in that state’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also some rare movement in the secure messaging arena, with a number of clinical information system vendors and secure messaging services having successfully completed the implementation of new interoperability standards that will hopefully allow clinicians and healthcare organisations to more easily exchange clinical information electronically. The road to secure messaging interoperability has been a tortuous one to say the least, but movement does seem to be occurring. At least 19 separate systems have successfully fulfilled the Australian Digital Health Agency’s requirements, with the vendors now getting ready to release the capability in their next versions. It is expected these will start to roll out over the next few months.

To view the full PULSE+IT article click here.

image of hand with phone held to scanning machine

Image source: PULSE+IT website.

Lack of physical activity requires national strategy

A new report finding Australians are not spending enough time being physically active highlights the need for action on a national, long-term preventive health strategy, according to AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report found that the majority of Australians of all ages are not meeting the minimum levels of physical activity required for health benefits, and are exceeding recommended limits on sedentary behaviour.

The AMA is working with the Federal Government on its proposed long-term national preventive health strategy, which was first announced by Health Minister Greg Hunt in a video message to the 2019 AMA National Conference almost 18 months ago. Dr Khorshis said “As a nation, we spend woefully too little on preventive health – only about 2 per cent of the overall health budget. A properly resourced preventive health strategy, including national public education campaigns on issues such as smoking and obesity, is vital to helping Australians improve their lifestyles and quality of life.”

To view the AMA’s media release regarding the physical activity report click here.

image of arms of Aboriginal person in running gear bending to tie shoelaces along bush trail

Image source: The Conversation.

KAMS CEO appointed to WA FHRI Fund Advisory Council

The McGowan Government has today announced the make-up of the Advisory Council of WA’s Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund. The FHRI Fund was the centerpiece of the State Government’s commitment to drive research and innovation in WA by providing the State’s health and medical researchers and innovators with a secure and ongoing source of funding. Vicki O’Donnell, CEO, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Ltd (KAMS), is one of seven eminent Western Australians appointed to the Advisory Council to provide high-level advice to the Health Minister and the Department of Health.

To view the Government of Western Australia’s media release click here.

portrait photo of Vicki O'Donnell, KAMS CEO in office

Vicki O’Donnell, CEO KAMS. Image source: ABC News.

PLUM and HATS help save kids hearing

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are being encouraged to use an Australian Government toolkit to ensure young children are meeting their milestones for hearing and speaking. The rates of hearing loss and ear disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly higher than for the non-Indigenous population. Between 2018–19 and 2022–23, almost $104.6 million will be provided for ear health initiatives to reduce the number of Indigenous Australians suffering avoidable hearing loss, and give Indigenous children a better start to education.

The Parent-evaluated Listening and Understanding Measure (PLUM) and the Hearing and Talking Scale (HATS) have been developed by Hearing Australia in collaboration with Aboriginal health and early education services. As part of a $21.2 million package of funding over five years from 2020–21 to advance hearing health in Australia, the 2020–21 Budget includes an additional $5 million to support early identification of hearing and speech difficulties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and embed the use of PLUM and HATS Australia-wide.

To view the Department of Health’s media release click here.

young Aboriginal child having his ear checked by health professional

Image source: The Wire website.

Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation receives research grant

The University of Wollongong (UOW) had announced the recipients of the Community Engagement Grants Scheme (CEGS). CEGS is uniquely focused on addressing the challenges faced by communities and taking action to create real and measurable outcomes. The CEGS projects are dedicated to serving communities on a range of issues that matter in the real world. Some areas of focus are health and wellbeing, disability and social services, culture and multiculturalism, Indigenous and local history and communities.

This year, the University awarded grants to three innovative community partners and UOW academics to support their research and outreach projects. Among the recipients is the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation and senior Aboriginal researcher and anthropologist, Professor Kathleen Clapham. Their project, titled ‘Amplifying the voices of Aboriginal women through culture and networking in an age of COVID19’ aims to address women’s isolation, restore networks, and nurture the exchange of Aboriginal knowledge and traditional practices.

To view the University of Wollongong’s media release click here.

portrait shot of Professor Kathleen Clapham University of Wollongong

Professor Kathleen Clapham, UOW. Image source: UOW website.

LGBQTISB suicide prevention

Indigenous LGBQTISB people deal with additional societal challenges, ones that can regularly intersect and contribute to the heightened development of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug problems, and a heightened risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour. Dameyon Bonson, an Indigenous gay male from the NT and recognised as Indigenous suicide prevention subject matter expert, specifically in Indigenous LGBQTI+ suicide, will be presenting ‘An introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous Australian) LGBQTISB suicide prevention’ from 11.00 am to 12.00 pm (ACST) on Tuesday 10 November 2020

For more information about the event and to register click here.image of Dameyon bonson and Indigenous LGBTIQSB Suicide Prevention - An Introduction course banner

Dead quiet to award winner in only two years

“The first year we were almost dead quiet … word of mouth and occupational health is what grew us, and now we’ve been able to really branch into Indigenous health and Closing the Gap initiatives,” said Practice Manager Olivia Tassone. At just 22-years-old, Tassone is also a part-owner of the company, along with former footballed Des Headland and others. Being privately owned gives Spartan First a flexibility that other companies in the same space don’t have. “One of the benefits of being a being a private business is we don’t really have a lot of red tape to jump over. If we want to start making a change, then we can just do it,” Tassone said.

To view the full article click here.

Practice Manager Olivia Tassone standing in front of Spartan building

Spartan Practice Manager Olivia Tassone. Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Tackling Indigenous Smoking with Prof Tom Calma

Tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of ill health and early death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is responsible for 23 per cent of the gap in health burden between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program aims to improve life expectancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by reducing tobacco use.

Professor Tom Calma, National Coordinator, leads the TIS program which has been running since 2010.  Under the program local organisations design and run activities that focus on reducing smoking rates, and supports people to never start smoking. Activities are:

  • evidence-based — so they are effective, and
  • measurable — so we can tell that they work.

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.

Feature Image tile: Aboriginal man holding iPone & COVID-19 virus under microscope & text Stay informed, keep our mob safe

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Stay informed, keep our mob safe

Stay informed, keep our mob safe

In terms of COVID-19 things are changing quickly and it’s important to stay informed. The Australian Government’s Department of Health has released an electronic newsletter update to provide key information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, communities and organisations.

To view the newsletter click here.

HAPEE initiative improves ear health

Hearing Australia is working with regional, rural and remote communities across Australia to address the high rates of hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Hearing Australia’s ‘Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears’ or HAPEE has conducted more than 2,100 diagnostic hearing assessments in 76 communities since it began 12 months ago. With $30 million in funding from the Australian Government, the HAPEE program aims to reduce the long-term effects of ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who have significantly higher rates of hearing loss than non-Indigenous Australian children, most commonly due to middle-ear infection, otitis media. The program focuses on young children who are not yet enrolled in primary school.

“It is essential that we identify hearing loss early on, especially between ages 0–3 when a child’s listening and language skills are developing rapidly,” Hearing Australia HAPEE Manager Michele Clapin said.

To read the full article click here.

Playgroup Australia launches story-telling campaign

Playgroup Australia is inviting you to tell them about your experience with playgroups by participating in their Playgroup Stories Campaign. This campaign is designed to build the evidence about the value of playgroups through collecting stories from playgroup providers and participants. Your input will help researchers understand the impact, benefits and opportunities playgroups have in the lives of children, parents, caregivers and broader communities across Australia.

To participate in the Playgroup Stories Campaign click here.

3 images: two Aboriginal girls painting, one Aboriginal girl threading beads; Aboriginal mother and baby

Image sources: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day website and Early Years Count website.

Victorian COVID-19 contact tracers overwhelmed

During an interview on Weekend Today with Richard Wilkins, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, explained that once you get to hundreds of COVID-19 cases per day it becomes impossible for contact tracers to keep up. Dr Khorshid said it is essential Victoria remain in lockdown until daily case numbers significantly decrease and for people to install the COVID-19 app, which helps contact tracers do their job.

To read the transcript of the interview click here.

two Aboriginal children wearing COVID-19 face mask painted with Indigenous flag.

Image source: The Conversation.

Chronic Conditions in Community Aged Care online module released

1 in 2 Australians have at least one chronic condition and 1 in 4 have two or more chronic conditions. The incidence of chronic conditions is even higher in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. CDMPlus have released a new Chronic Conditions in Community and Aged Care Online Module. It has been developed for care workers in community and aged care settings to increase understanding of chronic conditions and how to better support clients.

For more details click here.

Aboriginal care worker with her arms on the shoulders of an elderly Aboriginal man in a wheelchair.

Image source: UnitingCare Queensland.

Yerin Aboriginal Health Service – NSW

1 x Female Drug and Alcohol Youth Worker

Yerin Aboriginal Health Service has a vacancy for a Female Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Youth Worker to enhance the wellbeing of young people on the NSW Central Coast by working with the community and service providers to develop approaches and strategies that engage and meet the needs of high risk vulnerable young people aged 12–24 years.

To view the position statement click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Career Pathways Report commissioned by Lowitja Institute, led by AMSANT, UNSW released on #IndigenousPeoplesDay

Career Pathways Report commissioned by Lowitja Institute, led by AMSANT, UNSW released on #IndigenousPeoplesDay

Working for our people: what helps build a stronger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce?

The Career Pathways Project (CPP) commissioned by Lowitja Institute and led by Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was released on World Indigenous People’s Day 2020 on 9 August.

The CCP focuses on providing insights and guidance to enhance the capacity of the health system to retain and support the development and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health workforce.

For more information and to go through the report click here.

 

Kids ear health resource developed by AHCWA

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) ear health team has developed a new and innovative health promotion resource for children and youth called Simon Says. The first issue of Simon Says is an ear health brochure designed to support, teach and empower Aboriginal children with chronic ear conditions.

To access the brochure click here.

Cartoon characters, a man and three children with 'Keep your ear clean with good hygiene' speech bubble.

Image Source: AHCWA Clean Ears Brochure.

Aboriginal men’s experiences during partner’s pregnancy

A study looking at Kimberley Aboriginal men’s experience during their partner’s pregnancy “When I got the news”: Aboriginal fathers in the Kimberley region yarning about their experience of the antenatal period was recently released. The study explores Aboriginal men’s perceptions of being an expecting father, their social and emotional wellbeing, and their experience with health providers.

Plain language reports of the study for community and staff:

To view the full report click here.

Photo of Aboriginal man and pregnant partner

Image Source: NITV News.

National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap initiative

Cancer Australia is commencing the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap initiative, to improve outcomes for people affected by pancreatic cancer, one of Australia’s deadliest cancers. In developing the Roadmap, Cancer Australia will seek broad public consultation and collaborate with key stakeholders, including consumers, to build on the efforts and expertise of the non-government sector.

A key focus of the consultation phase will be engagement with targeted population groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, rural and remote and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Further details will be provided through the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap website in the near future.

National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap banner

Image Source: Australian Government Cancer Australia.

 

IAHP Yarnes Project Year One Report

A Year One Site Engagement Report of the evaluation of the Australian Government’s Investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care through the Indigenous Australian’s Health Programme (IAHP Yarnes) has been released. The report provides an overview of the site engagement processes and outcomes of IAHP Yarnes. The short name for the evaluation, ‘IAHP Yarnes’, stands for yarning, action, reflection, national evaluation, systems.

A full copy of the Year One Report can be accessed here.

IAHP Yarnes banner

Job Alerts

VIC – Melbourne

FT Fundraising Coordinator x 1 (6 months)

Children’s Ground is seeking applications by 5pm Monday 24 August 2020 for a Fundraising Coordinator to lead the development and implementation of a digital fundraising strategy so that Children’s Ground may continue to be sustainable into the future.

You can visit the Children’s Ground website here and apply for the Fundraising Coordinator position here.

Children's Ground purpose statement.

WA – Perth

Derbal Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation are seeking applications for six (6) positions, including:

Click on the job title for further details. Applications for the above four (4) positions are due by 5pm Friday 14 August 2020.

Click on the job title for further information. Applications for the above two (2) positions are due by 5pm Monday 17 August 2020. Derbal Yerrigan Logo

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Research Alert : @HealthInfoNet releases Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019 social and cultural determinants, chronic conditions, health behaviours, environmental health , alcohol and other drugs

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has released the Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019

This new plain language publication provides information for a wider (non-academic) audience and incorporates many visual elements.

The Summary is useful for health workers and those studying in the field as a quick source of general information. It provides key information regarding the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the following topics:

  • social and cultural determinants
  • chronic conditions
  • health behaviours
  • environmental health
  • alcohol and other drugs.

The Summary is based on HealthInfoNet‘s comprehensive publication Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019. It presents statistical information from the Overview in a visual format that is quick and easy for users to digest.

The Summary is available online and in hardcopy format. Please contact HealthInfoNet by email if you wish to order a hardcopy of this Summary. Other reviews and plain language summaries are available here.

Here are the key facts

Please note in an earlier version sent out 7.00 am June 15 a computer error dropped off the last word in many sentences : these are new fixed 

Key facts

Population

  • In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
  • In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
  • In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders
  • In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Births and pregnancy outcomes

  • In 2018, there were 21,928 births registered in Australia with one or both parents identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (7% of all births registered).
  • In 2018, the median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers was 26.0 years.
  • In 2018, total fertility rates were 2,371 births per 1,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
  • In 2017, the average birthweight of babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers was 3,202 grams
  • The proportion of low birthweight babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers between 2007 and 2017 remained steady at around 13%.

Mortality

  • For 2018, the age-standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was 1 per 1,000.
  • Between 1998 and 2015, there was a 15% reduction in the death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT.
  • For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people born 2015-2017, life expectancy was estimated to be 6 years for males and 75.6 years for females, around 8-9 years less than the estimates for non-Indigenous males and females.
  • In 2018, the median age at death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was 2 years; this was an increase from 55.8 years in 2008.
  • Between 1998 and 2015, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate has more than halved (from 5 to 6.3 per 1,000).
  • In 2018, the leading causes of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT were ischaemic heart disease (IHD), diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases and lung and related cancers.
  • For 2012-2017 the maternal mortality ratio for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was 27 deaths per 100,000 women who gave birth.
  • For 1998-2015, in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT there was a 32% decline in the death rate from avoidable causes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 0-74 years

Hospitalisation

  • In 2017-18, 9% of all hospital separations were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2017-18, the age-adjusted separation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 2.6 times higher than for non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2017-18, the main cause of hospitalisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was for ‘factors influencing health status and contact with health services’ (mostly for care involving dialysis), responsible for 49% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander seperations.
  • In 2017-18, the age-standardised rate of overall potentially preventable hospitalisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 80 per 1,000 (38 per 1,000 for chronic conditions and 13 per 1,000 for vaccine-preventable conditions).

Selected health conditions

Cardiovascular health

  • In 2018-19, around 15% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • In 2018-19, nearly one quarter (23%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were found to have high blood pressure.
  • For 2013-2017, in Qld, WA, SA and the NT combined, there were 1,043 new rheumatic heart disease diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a crude rate of 50 per 100,000.
  • In 2017-18, there 14,945 hospital separations for CVD among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, representing 5.4% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospital separations (excluding dialysis).
  • In 2018, ischaemic heart disease (IHD) was the leading specific cause of death of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT

Cancer

  • In 2018-19, 1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having cancer (males 1.2%, females 1.1%).
  • For 2010-2014, the most common cancers diagnosed among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Vic, Qld, WA and the NT were lung cancer and breast (females) cancer.
  • Survival rates indicate that of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Vic, Qld, WA, and the NT who were diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2014, 50% had a chance of surviving five years after diagnosis
  • In 2016-17, there 8,447 hospital separations for neoplasms2 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2013-2017, the age-standardised mortality rate due to cancer of any type was 238 per 100,000, an increase of 5% when compared with a rate of 227 per 100,000 in 2010-2014.

Diabetes

  • In 2018-19, 8% of Aboriginal people and 7.9% of Torres Strait Islander people reported having diabetes.
  • In 2015-16, there were around 2,300 hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • In 2018, diabetes was the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • The death rate for diabetes decreased by 0% between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018.
  • Some data sources use term ‘neoplasm’ to describe conditions associated with abnormal growth of new tissue, commonly referred to as a Neoplasms can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) [1].

Social and emotional wellbeing

  • In 2018-19, 31% of Aboriginal and 23% of Torres Strait Islander respondents aged 18 years and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress
  • In 2014-15, 68% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and 67% of children aged 4-14 years experienced at least one significant stressor in the previous 12 months
  • In 2012-13, 91% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported on feelings of calmness and peacefulness, happiness, fullness of life and energy either some, most, or all of the time.
  • In 2014-15, more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported an overall life satisfaction rating of at least 8 out of 10.
  • In 2018-19, 25% of Aboriginal and 17% of Torres Strait Islander people, aged two years and over, reported having a mental and/or behavioural conditions
  • In 2018-19, anxiety was the most common mental or behavioural condition reported (17%), followed by depression (13%).
  • In 2017-18, there were 21,940 hospital separations with a principal diagnosis of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) ‘mental and behavioural disorders’ identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • In 2018, 169 (129 males and 40 females) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA, and the NT died from intentional self-harm (suicide).
  • Between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018, the NT was the only jurisdiction to record a decrease in intentional self-harm (suicide) death rates.

Kidney health

  • In 2018-19, 8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Aboriginal people 1.9%; Torres Strait Islander people 0.4%) reported kidney disease as a long-term health condition.
  • For 2014-2018, after age-adjustment, the notification rate of end-stage renal disease was 3 times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2017-18, ‘care involving dialysis’ was the most common reason for hospitalisation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2018, 310 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commenced dialysis and 49 were the recipients of new kidneys.
  • For 2013-2017, the age-adjusted death rate from kidney disease was 21 per 100,000 (NT: 47 per 100,000; WA: 38 per 100,000) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and NT
  • In 2018, the most common causes of death among the 217 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were receiving dialysis was CVD (64 deaths) and withdrawal from treatment (51 deaths).

Injury, including family violence

  • In 2012-13, 5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term condition caused by injury.
  • In 2018-19, 16% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had experienced physical harm or threatened physical harm at least once in the last 12 months.
  • In 2016-17, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospitalised injury was higher for males (44 per 1,000) than females (39 per 1,000).
  • In 2017-18, 20% of injury-related hospitalisations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were for assault.
  • In 2018, intentional self-harm was the leading specific cause of injury deaths for NSW, Qld, SA, WA, and NT (5.3% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths).

Respiratory health

  • In 2018-19, 29% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term respiratory condition .
  • In 2018-19, 16% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having asthma.
  • In 2014-15, crude hospitalisation rates were highest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people presenting with influenza and pneumonia (7.4 per 1,000), followed by COPD (5.3 per 1,000), acute upper respiratory infections (3.8 per 1,000) and asthma (2.9 per 1,000).
  • In 2018, chronic lower respiratory disease was the third highest cause of death overall for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT

Eye health

  • In 2018-19, eye and sight problems were reported by 38% of Aboriginal people and 40% of Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2018-19, eye and sight problems were reported by 32% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and by 43% of females.
  • In 2018-19, the most common eye conditions reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were hyperopia (long sightedness: 22%), myopia (short sightedness: 16%), other diseases of the eye and adnexa (8.7%), cataract (1.4%), blindness (0.9%) and glaucoma (0.5%).
  • In 2014-15, 13% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, aged 4-14 years, were reported to have eye or sight problems.
  • In 2018, 144 cases of trachoma were detected among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in at-risk communities in Qld, WA, SA and the NT
  • For 2015-17, 62% of hospitalisations for diseases of the eye (8,274) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were for disorders of the lens (5,092) (mainly cataracts).

Ear health and hearing

  • In 2018-19, 14% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term ear and/or hearing problem
  • In 2018-19, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-14 years, the prevalence of otitis media (OM) was 6% and of partial or complete deafness was 3.8%.
  • In 2017-18, the age-adjusted hospitalisation rate for ear conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 1 per 1,000 population.

Oral health

  • In 2014-15, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4-14 years with reported tooth or gum problems was 34%, a decrease from 39% in 2008.
  • In 2012-2014, 61% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-10 years had experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth, and 36% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6-14 years had experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth.
  • In 2016-17, there were 3,418 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander The age-standardised rate of hospitalisation was 4.6 per 1,000.

Disability

  • In 2018-19, 27% of Aboriginal and 24% of Torres Strait Islander people reported having a disability or restrictive long-term health
  • In 2018-19, 2% of Aboriginal and 8.3% of Torres Strait Islander people reported a profound or severe core activity limitation.
  • In 2016, 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a profound or severe disability reported a need for assistance.
  • In 2017-18, 9% of disability service users were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with most aged under 50 years (82%).
  • In 2017-18, the primary disability groups accessing services were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a psychiatric condition (24%), intellectual disability (23%) and physical disability (20%).
  • In 2017-18, 2,524 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Disability Agreement service users transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Communicable diseases

  • In 2017, there were 7,015 notifications for chlamydia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 7% of the notifications in Australia
  • During 2013-2017, there was a 9% and 9.8% decline in chlamydia notification rates among males and females (respectively).
  • In 2017, there were 4,119 gonorrhoea notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 15% of the notifications in Australia.
  • In 2017, there were 779 syphilis notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounting for 18% of the notifications in Australia.
  • In 2017, Qld (45%) and the NT (35%) accounted for 80% of the syphilis notifications from all jurisdictions.
  • In 2018, there were 34 cases of newly diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia .
  • In 2017, there were 1,201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with hepatitis C (HCV) in Australia
  • In 2017, there were 151 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with hepatitis B (HBV) in Australia
  • For 2013-2017 there was a 37% decline in the HBV notification rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • For 2011-2015, 1,152 (14%) of the 8,316 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait people .
  • For 2011-2015, there were 26 deaths attributed to IPD with 11 of the 26 deaths (42%) in the 50 years and over age-group.
  • For 2011-2015, 101 (10%) of the 966 notified cases of meningococcal disease were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2006-2015, the incidence rate of meningococcal serogroup B was 8 per 100,000, with the age- specific rate highest in infants less than 12 months of age (33 per 100,000).
  • In 2015, of the 1,255 notifications of TB in Australia, 27 (2.2%) were identified as Aboriginal and seven (0.6%) as Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2011-2015, there were 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) in Australia
  • Between 2007-2010 and 2011-2015 notification rates for Hib decreased by around 67%.
  • In 2018-19, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reporting a disease of the skin and subcutaneous tissue was 2% (males 2.4% and females 4.0%).

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #HearingAwarenessWeek A/Prof @KelvinKongENT is working to #closethegap in ear health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids by finding better treatments and preventative approaches so kids are not limited by their hearing.

I aim to make a national profile of the problem of ear disease and hearing loss. It is an important issue for all Australian levels of government, policy makers and health service providers.

The severe impact imposed by hearing loss needs greater acknowledgement, especially in communities where a majority of people are affected, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We are also seeing too many children in our urban, regional and rural communities being affected and waiting too long for access to specialist care.

This is a health problem that costs our nation a great deal of money, not just in medical treatments but in the social cost of people not receiving enough education to get a good job and provide security for themselves and their families in the future.

Associate Professor Kelvin Kong : Read interview full BIO Part 2

Read over 40 Aboriginal Health and Ear Hearing articles published by NACCHO

 “ Up to nine in every ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under the age of three in the Northern Territory, suffer from otitis media, or “glue ear”, in one or both ears. If left untreated this can have a devasting impact on a child’s entire life trajectory.

The Hearing for Learning Initiative will increase early detection of otitis media, by training local community members to become ear experts that support on the ground health and education services. This will decrease the need for fly-in fly-out specialists, reduce the treatment waiting period and create employment opportunities for up to 40 community-based workers in the Northern Territory. ” 

Download Menzies Press Release 

Media release Hearing for learning a focus on Bathurst Island

World Hearing Day was on 3 March 2020. The theme this year is “Don’t let hearing loss limit you”.

World Hearing Day coincides with Hearing Awareness Week in Australia (1 to 7 March).

This year’s theme is “Don’t let hearing loss limit you”. This theme highlights how timely and effective interventions can help people with hearing loss reach their full potential.

World Hearing Day coincides with Hearing Awareness Week in Australia (1 to 7 March).

Hearing loss in Australia

In Australia, almost 4 million people have some form of hearing loss. This continues to grow as our population ages.

The most common causes of hearing loss are:

  • age-related
  • excessive exposure to loud noise

Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise is preventable. The best interventions for hearing loss are early interventions, no matter how old you are.

If you or someone you know is worried about hearing loss, we encourage you to have your hearing checked.

The Healthdirect website provides more information on the signs of hearing loss and ways to help prevent hearing loss.

Hearing Services Program

The Australian Government is working to reduce hearing loss and the consequences of hearing loss in Australia.

The Government’s $581 million Hearing Services Program provides high quality hearing services and devices to some of our most vulnerable people.

In 2018-19, the program delivered services to over 785,000 clients, including:

  • older Australians
  • veterans
  • young children
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people living in rural and remote areas

The Australian Government has also committed $4 million in funding for up to 600,000 free online hearing tests for children. Parents of children aged between four and 17 can visit the Sound Scouts website for more information.

Find out more about hearing and hearing loss on the Hearing Services Program website.

Part 2 Interview with Associate Professor Kelvin Kong

From HERE

Ear disease in Australian Indigenous populations is deplorable. I am working to closing the gap in ear health to bring all Indigenous Australian children to the same level of well-being and health care access as their non-Indigenous counterparts.

The rates of ear disease are higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across Australia, with some communities having 90% of young children affected. This causes hearing loss leading to massive disadvantage in early learning and development of language and social skills, which can have devastating repercussions throughout life.

Our Newcastle ear research team works to understand the pathophysiology of chronic ear disease in Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous sufferers to understand the nature of ear infections and find better treatments and preventative approaches in early childhood.

Unfortunately, some babies will acquire infections within the first months of life and go on to have recurrent infections that impact upon their ability to hear and learn. Importantly missing on hearing the voices (and stories) of their family members at this vitally important period of early development.

I aim to make a national profile of the problem of ear disease and hearing loss. It is an important issue for all Australian levels of government, policy makers and health service providers.

The severe impact imposed by hearing loss needs greater acknowledgement, especially in communities where a majority of people are affected, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We are also seeing too many children in our urban, regional and rural communities being affected and waiting too long for access to specialist care.

This is a health problem that costs our nation a great deal of money, not just in medical treatments but in the social cost of people not receiving enough education to get a good job and provide security for themselves and their families in the future.

The journey of solving the ear health issues must be community led and translated into models of care that have a holistic approach. Our research must also have capacity and ensure any solutions are sustainable.

 

Why did you get into research?

It was heartbreaking growing up in the Worimi community enduring the health disparities first hand. I have always had a passion to help address the inequality and have been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunities to allow me to complete the full circle and be a care giver.

As an ENT surgeon I have treated people all across Australia, including people in Newcastle (Awabakal country), with terrible states of ear disease.

The lack of access to health care and the escalation of a problem that should have been addressed long ago, is a driver to increase the momentum of a solution.

The impact of research into the causes and interventions, cannot be overestimated, so that young babies will not progress to the stage where surgery is desperately needed to restore some hearing so they can participate in a normal childhood and have aspirations and dreams not limited by their hearing.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

The ultimate goal is for all Australian children, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to have the same chance of having healthy ears, no matter where they reside in Australia.

We need everyone to have enough awareness of the problems, to put the time and resources into finding treatments and interventions, so that no child should expect to go through life suffering the loneliness, loss of self-esteem and lack of education that many children experience with ear disease and as adults in later life.

Biography

Kelvin graduated from the University of NSW in 1999. He embarked on his internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst and pursued a surgical career, completing resident medical officer and registrar positions at various attachments. Along the way, he has been privileged in serving the urban, rural and remote communities.

He was awarded his fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 2007. Once completed he pursued further training in Paediatric ENT surgery, being grateful and honored by his fellowship at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne in 2007-8. He is now practising in Newcastle (Awabakal Country) as a Surgeon specializing in Paediatric & Adult Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose & Throat Surgery).

He has joined an outstanding group of surgeons at Hunter ENT and together they provide a varied comprehensive practice. He has a very broad adult and paediatric Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology practice, whilst having special interests in Paediatric Airway, Adult and Paediatric Cochlear Implantation, Voice and Swallow disorders and Head & Neck Cancer management.

He is an active member of RACS and ASOHNS, serving on the Indigenous Health and Fellowship Services Committees. He has published articles and presented on a variety of ear, nose and throat conditions as well as Indigenous health issues both nationally and internationally.  He is active in reviewing articles for publication, lecturing and teaching allied health professional, medical students at several universities and both unaccredited and advanced medical and surgical trainees. His commitment and professionalism was recognised in July 2017 when he was appointed the Secretary of the Australian New Zealand Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology. He was also honored to have won the Australian Indigenous Doctor of the year in 2017.

As Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Assoc. Prof. Kong is committed to improving the ear health of Indigenous children and has often participated in news articles and television interviews to bring the attention of the Australian public to the disparity in Indigenous and non-Indigenous child health. He makes regular trips to Australia’s remote regions to provide ear health services that would otherwise not be available.

Kelvin hails from the Worimi people of Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Being surrounded by health, he has always championed for the improvement of health and education. Complementing his practice as a surgeon, he is kept grounded by his family, who are the strength and inspiration to him, remaining involved in numerous projects and committees to help give back to the community.

Future Focus

Being able to hear is such a privilege often taken for granted. The quality of life through the enjoyment if sound and education is a human right. I want everyone to understand the importance of ear disease in childhood and particularly how vital it is that we stop this problem from affecting so many Australian Indigenous children. We need to work together to raise the standards of living and access to medical care so that our First people are not living from one generation to the next in sub-standard circumstances.  We need to see our children finishing their education, able to gain employment and live alongside non-Indigenous Australians with the same opportunities and the same quality of life. We need see them to strive toward their dreams.

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon
  • Causes of ear infections
  • Paediatric Airway
  • Adult and Paediatric Cochlear Implantation
  • Voice and Swallow disorders
  • Head & Neck Cancer management
  • Randomised controlled trials
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • Educator
  • Policy development
  • Mentor
  • Father, Husband, Brother, Worimi man

Affiliations

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Resources Alert : Download @HealthInfoNet Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019 : Continuing to show important positive developments for our mob

In the Overview we strive to provide an accurate and informative summary of the current health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In doing so, we want to acknowledge the importance of adopting a strengths-based approach, and to recognise the increasingly important area of data sovereignty.

To this end, we have reduced our reliance on comparative data in favour of exploring the broad context of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people and how this may impact their health journey “

HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew

The Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status (Overview) aims to provide a comprehensive summary of the most recent indicators of the health and current health status of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Download HERE 

Overview+of+Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+health+status+2019

The annual Overview contains updated information across many health conditions.

It shows there has been a range of positive signs including a decrease in death rates, infant mortality rates and a decline in death rates from avoidable causes as well as a reduction in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke.

It has also been found that fewer mothers are smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy meaning that babies have a better start to life.

The initial sections of the Overview provide information about:

  • the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • social determinants including education, employment and income
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
  • measures of population health status including births, mortality and hospitalisation.

The remaining sections are about selected health conditions and risk and protective factors that contribute to the overall health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These sections include an introduction and evidence of the extent of the condition or risk/protective factor. Information is provided for state and territories and for demographics such as sex and age when it is available and appropriate.

The Overview is a resource relevant for the health workforce, students and others requiring access to up-to-date information about the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This year, the focus will be mainly on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and presentation is within the framework of the strength based approach and data sovereignty (where information is available).

As a data driven organisation, the HealthInfoNet has a publicly declared commitment to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to advance our understanding of data sovereignty and governance consistent with the principles and aspirations of the Maiam nayri Wingara Data Sovereignty Collective (https://www.maiamnayriwingara.org).

As we have done in previous years, we continue our strong commitment to developing strengths based approaches to assessing and reporting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

It is difficult to make comparisons between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non- Indigenous Australian populations without consideration of the cultural and social contexts within which people live their lives.

As in past versions, we still provide information on the cultural context and social determinants for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

However, for the selected health topics and risk/protective factors we have removed many of the comparisons between the two populations and focused on the analysis of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data only.

In an attempt to respond to the challenge issued by Professor Craig Ritchie at the 2019 AIATSIS conference to say more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ not just the ‘what’ where comparisons are made and if there is evidence available, we have provided a brief explanation for the differences observed.

Accompanying the Overview is a set of PowerPoint slides designed to help lecturers and others provide up-to-date information.

  • In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
  • In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
  • In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Download the PowerPoint HERE

Overview+of+Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+health+status+2019_+key+facts

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #COAG Health Ministers Council Communique : Peak bodies welcome Roadmaps to address high priority health issues #RenalHealth  #EyeHealth #RHD #RheumaticHeartDisease #Hearing Health and #Housing

We welcome the COAG Health Council’s commitment to the RHD Roadmap today.

The RHD Roadmap was developed by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) on behalf of END RHD.

We look forward to supporting the AHMAC review of the RHD Roadmap, and ask that the National RHD Steering Committee – which underpins governance of the RHD Roadmap – be convened as a matter of priority to oversee development of the implementation plan. ” 

END RHD Press Release see 2.30 below for full release 

“ The need to close the gap for vision and achieve a world class system of eye health and vision care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a critically important objective and rightly belongs on the national agenda.”

The fact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still three times more likely to experience blindness than non-Indigenous Australians illustrates the need for action.

We welcome the leadership shown by Minister Wyatt in bringing this issue to the COAG Health Council, and strongly encourage all governments and all sides of politics to join together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, their organisations and Vision 2020 Australia members to close the gap for vision.”

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Judith Abbott:

The Federal, state and territory Health Ministers met in Adelaide last Friday at the COAG Health Council to discuss a range of national health issues.

The meeting was chaired by the Hon Roger Cook MLA, Western Australian Minister for Health and Mental Health.

Major items discussed by Health Ministers today included:

1.National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Workforce Plan

2. Roadmaps to address high priority health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

2.1 Renal Health 

2.2 Eye Health 

2.3 Rheumatic Heart Disease 

2.4 Hearing Health

3.Diseases of housing overcrowding and poverty in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

1.National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Workforce Plan 

At the August 2018 Indigenous Roundtable Health Ministers agreed to develop a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Health and Medical Workforce Plan that provides a career path, national scope of practice and attracts more Indigenous people into health professions.

Ministers discussed the approach to develop the Plan noting that the Commonwealth will provide resources to lead its drafting, in full consultation with states and territories and other key stakeholders.

Ministers noted that in the course of developing the Plan, there may be value in engaging with other relevant COAG councils with workforce and skills responsibilities to realise meaningful, sustainable outcomes.

A draft Plan will be submitted to the next CHC Indigenous Roundtable in July 2019.

Roadmaps to address high priority health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

At the July 2018 COAG Health Council meeting, Health Ministers discussed the potentially preventable burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities caused by a number of health conditions. They discussed work to date to address these health conditions and opportunities to build on these efforts within the context of the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023.

Today Health Ministers discussed four roadmaps to be a framework to deliver collaborative policies and programs to address this key health challenge. Ministers committed to working jointly to ending rheumatic heart disease and avoidable blindness and deafness.

Ministers referred the roadmaps to the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council for review and reporting back in November 2019.

2.1 Renal Health 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a disproportionate burden of renal disease. Research shows non-Indigenous patients are nearly four times more likely to receive kidney transplants, and Indigenous people are nine times as likely to rely on dialysis.

Ministers noted the Renal Health Roadmap, developed by the Commonwealth in conjunction with key stakeholders, as a framework to deliver collaborative policies and programs.

2.2 Eye Health 

The rate of vision impairment and blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians. The leading causes of vision loss and blindness in Indigenous adults are uncorrected refractive error, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. Ministers noted the Eye Health Roadmap as a framework to deliver collaborative policies and programs.

Vision 2020 Press Release

Vision 2020 Australia welcomes the leadership shown by the Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt AM, along with his state and territory counterparts, in discussing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision at today’s COAG Health Council Meeting.

Too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still experience avoidable vision loss and blindness, and those who have lost vision often find it difficult to access the support and services they need.

Our members are working hard to improve eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the plan discussed today is a product of their extensive input and expertise.

We encourage all governments, all sides of politics, and the many others involved in this area to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their organisations to achieve and sustain real improvements in eye health and vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across our nation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s eye health – key facts

  • Cataract is the leading cause of blindness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and is 12 times more common than for non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wait on average 63% longer for cataract surgery than non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Almost two-thirds of vision impairment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is due to uncorrected refractive error – often treatable with a pair of glasses.
  • One in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults has Diabetic Retinopathy, which can lead to irreversible vision loss.
  • Australia is the only developed country to still have Trachoma, found predominately in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

2.3 Rheumatic Heart Disease 

Rheumatic heart disease is a disease of disadvantage that affects primarily Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It is caused by an episode or recurrent episodes of acute rheumatic fever where the heart valves remain stretched or scarred, interrupting normal bloodflow. The Roadmap has used the best available evidence to identify priority actions for the next 10 years.

RHD Press Release

We welcome the COAG Health Council’s commitment to the RHD Roadmap today. The RHD Roadmap was developed by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) on behalf of END RHD.

We look forward to supporting the AHMAC review of the RHD Roadmap, and ask that the National RHD Steering Committee – which underpins governance of the RHD Roadmap – be convened as a matter of priority to oversee development of the implementation plan.

We look forward to working with the Commonwealth and jurisdictional governments, implementing organisations, and communities, to ensure the RHD Roadmap is implemented in a timely, consultative manner, in line with the COAG Implementation Principles as informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.

We thank Ministers Wyatt and Hunt for commissioning and championing the RHD Roadmap. We thank all our partners who contributed their experience, wisdom, and energies in preliminary consultation.

Our goal is to end rheumatic heart disease in Australia. This RHD Roadmap provides a critical opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to lead the way to achieve that shared vision.

2.4 Hearing Health

Hearing loss is a complex issue that affects millions of Australians. It is often considered a hidden or invisible issue as, despite the high prevalence of hearing loss, there is limited awareness in the broader community. There is a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to ear disease that profoundly affects their life experiences through childhood and into adulthood. This has a significant impact on community engagement, education, employment and engagement with the criminal justice system. The Roadmap sets out the short, medium and long-term actions to address the key hearing health issues that have been identified.

3. Diseases of housing overcrowding and poverty in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Health Ministers discussed the conditions that make up the health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are associated with a range of social and environmental determinants. Communicable diseases in particular share the same environmental risk factors of poor cleanliness and hygiene, the impacts of which are exacerbated by overcrowded living conditions. Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) are two examples of diseases resulting from overcrowding and poverty in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Other Issues 

National Health Reform Agreement – Resolving reconciliation and back casting

Health Ministers discussed differing approaches to the application of back casting in the Activity Based Funding model for Commonwealth funding to states and territories under the National Health Reform Agreement.

State and Territory Ministers will develop a joint set of policy principles and directions on a clear methodology for the calculation of hospital funding for use by the national funding bodies, which will be presented to COAG by June 2019.

Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and Beyond

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) global nutrition target is to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50 percent by 2025. Low breastfeeding rates and the use of infant formula within the first year of life are linked to obesity and other chronic diseases in later life.

In 2016, Health Ministers agreed to develop an enduring breastfeeding strategy following the conclusion of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015. The latest National Health Survey data shows that only around 25% of babies are exclusively breastfed to around six months.

The Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and Beyond seeks to achieve the World Health Organization target of 50% of babies exclusively breastfed to around six months by 2025, including a particular focus on those from priority populations and vulnerable groups. To achieve this objective, actions are proposed across three priority areas: structural enablers; settings that enable breastfeeding; and individual enablers.

Ministers discussed the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and Beyond and committed to provide a supportive and enabling environment for breastfeeding mothers, infants and families. Ministers were of the view that investing in breastfeeding is an investment in chronic disease prevention and better health.

The Commonwealth Department of Health will lead national policy coordination, monitoring and evaluation and report annually on implementation progress to the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council.

Professional Indemnity Insurance for Privately Practicing Midwives

In 2010, the introduction of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 saw the requirement for registered health practitioners to have appropriate professional indemnity insurance in place. Despite exhaustive national and international investigations, no available or affordable commercial product in Australia covers Privately Practicing Midwives for homebirth.

Health Ministers considered the issue of professional indemnity insurance for privately practicing midwives. Health Ministers emphasised that the safety of mothers and their babies is paramount.

Health Ministers recognised that the availability of a suitable professional indemnity insurance product covering private home births would be preferable, as it would allow privately practicing midwives to remain registered under the National Law without the need for an exemption, continue to provide choice to women and take into account the rights of women and children.

In the absence of a suitable professional indemnity insurance product for privately practicing midwives, Health Ministers requested that AHMAC would complete additional work to inform the decision of Ministers in relation to the way forward by June 2020.

Health Ministers agreed for the current exemption under the National Law to be extended until December 2021 to allow time for options to be explored further.

Update on ageing and aged care matters including the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

All Australian Health Ministers are committed to the highest quality care for older Australians.

The Minister for Indigenous Health and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, provided an update on recent ageing and aged care initiatives, announcements and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The Royal Commission has a broad scope to inquire into all forms of Commonwealth-funded aged care services, regardless of the setting in which those services are delivered. It will look at the aged care sector as a whole, including younger people with disabilities living in residential age care.

Ministers also discussed a range of issues relating to safe and quality care for older Australians, for example, the provision of primary and community care services to aged care consumers, access to acute care and rehabilitation services, timely movement of consumers from hospital to aged care services and engagement on the implementation of effective mechanisms to regulate restraint in aged care.

Update on National Missions under the Medical Research Future Fund 

National Medical Research Future Fund Missions are large programs of work with ambitious objectives to address complex and sizeable health issues that are only possible through significant investment, leadership and collaboration. They bring together key researchers, health professionals, stakeholders, industry partners, patients and governments to tackle significant health challenges, for example brain cancer and dementia.

Today Health Ministers received an update from the Commonwealth Minister for Health on the five national Missions and the Indigenous Health Futures announced to date and increased opportunities for contestable grant rounds to support health and medical research.

The five missions are

  1. Australian Brain Cancer Mission
  2. Genomics Health Futures Mission
  3. Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission
  4. Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Research Mission
  5. Mission for Cardiovascular Health

The research work also includes the Indigenous Health Futures for which $160 million from the MRFF has been committed over ten years for a national research initiative to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Health Ministers supported the work of the research Missions and the Indigenous Health Futures, agreeing to work together towards achieving their aims.

Resolving outstanding National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) implementation issues

Health Ministers acknowledged the significant efforts being made by all jurisdictions to resolve issues that arise from the interface between the NDIS and health systems.

Mental Health Services

States and territories expressed concerns about access to necessary primary care mental health services. States, territories and the Commonwealth will work constructively so that access to primary mental health services is improved particularly for consumers outside the NDIS.

Regulation of misleading public health information

The Queensland Health Minister provided an update on regulation of misleading public health information in relation to misleading or inaccurate information regarding vaccines or vaccination programs.

Ministers welcomed the prompt action and leadership of the Outdoor Media Association to apply the intent of the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (No.2) 2018, so that advertising connected to therapeutic goods ‘must not be inconsistent with current public health campaigns.’

Tobacco industry issues

Australia has been a world leader in legislation restricting the promotion and advertising of tobacco-related products through sport, and in taking a precautionary approach to the control of smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes.

The tobacco industry is investing heavily in smoke-free products and has established associated sports sponsorships launched at the start of the 2019 F1 and MotoGP championship seasons, presenting a challenge to tobacco control legislation.

Victoria raised the issue that e-liquids for use in e-cigarettes are not in child safe packaging, do not contain sufficient warnings and may be dangerous or fatal for young children.

Health Ministers today discussed a national approach to the prohibition of smoke-free,  e-cigarette and related sponsorship and advertising in sport, based on existing tobacco control principles and legislation. This approach will have the capacity to respond to emerging products and forms of marketing.

Health Ministers also noted that the Clinical Principal Committee will develop options to better regulate e-cigarettes and related products including consideration of the need to introduce child proof lids and plain packaging, with options to be provided to the COAG Health Council for consideration.

National Medical Workforce Strategy

A National Medical Workforce Strategy is necessary to guide long-term, collaborative medical workforce planning across Australia.

The Strategy will match the supply of general practitioners, medical specialists and consultant physicians to predicted medical service needs and will involve consultation with a range of stakeholders. Health Ministers will fund the development of a National Medical Workforce Strategy. This will include sharing of data across Commonwealth and other jurisdictions to support the strategy.

It is expected that the Strategy will address several system-level issues including:

  • the number and distribution of specialist training positions and how these might be better aligned to community needs
  • access to the full range of medical services, including maternity services, in regional, rural and remote areas
  • the current reliance on overseas trained doctors to fill specific workforce shortages and how Australia can improve self-sufficiency in medical workforce development
  • integration of medical care between settings and professions
  • improving workplace culture and doctor wellbeing
  • the under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in the medical workforce.

A Steering Committee has been established under the National Medical Training Advisory Network to guide this work.

Options for a nationally consistent approach to the regulation of spinal manipulation on children 

Health Ministers noted community concerns about the unsafe spinal manipulation on children performed by chiropractors and agreed that public protection was paramount in resolving this issue.

Ministers welcomed the advice that Victoria will commission an independent review of the practice of spinal manipulation on children under 12 years, and the findings will be reported to the COAG Health Council, including the need for changes to the National Law.

Ministers supported the examination of an increase in penalties for advertising offences, such as false, misleading or deceptive advertising, under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, to bring these into line with community expectations and penalties for other offences under the National Law. This decision was informed by recent consultation about potential reforms to the National Law in 2018.

Ministers will consider the outcomes of the independent review and determine any further changes needed to protect the public.