NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Permanent telehealth to strengthen health system

Feature tile - Tue 14.12.21 - Permanent telehealth

PLEASE NOTE: the last date for this publication this year is Wednesday 15 December 2021 – the publication will start again in the new year from 18 January 2022.

Photograph in feature tile from MiVision – Delivering telehealth in Western Australia.

Permanent telehealth to strengthen health system

In a media release published yesterday 13 December 2021 by the Australian Government, telehealth will become a permanent feature of primary health care, which has been transformational to health care delivery and underpinned much of the Government’s successful COVID-19 response.

The Morrison Government is providing $106 million over four years to support permanent telehealth services, ensuring greater flexibility to patients and doctors for the delivery of health care; allowing GPs, specialists, and allied health professionals to continue to consult with their regular patients by phone or online.

The AMA says the health of all Australians will benefit from the availability of telehealth.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said telehealth also improved access to healthcare for people who found it difficult to take time off work; could not leave children or people they were caring for and who live out of town and away from their GP or non-GP specialist.

You can  read the AMA media release here and the Department of Health’s media release here.

Jigalong patient and carer being supported by Stephen Copeland, optometrists. Image credit: mivision.com.au

Jigalong patient and carer being supported by Stephen Copeland, optometrists via telehealth. Image credit: mivision.com.au

Urgency to contain Katherine and Big Rivers outbreak

In a media release published by The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) yesterday 13 December 2021, AMSANT expressed alarm and deep concern at the rapidly increasing numbers of cases stemming from the Katherine COVID-19 outbreak and its spread into communities in the surrounding regions.

“AMSANT is today calling on the NT Government to take immediate steps to strengthen their response to this continuing crisis”, AMSANT Chief Executive officer, John Paterson, said.

“We acknowledge the very good job that the NT Government has done in responding to the outbreaks in Robinson River, Binjari and Rockhole, however, subsequent measures to contain the Katherine outbreak have been unsuccessful.”

“News of a likely positive case in Timber Creek and multiple positive wastewater results appearing in numerous remote communities underscores the growing and urgent need for a stronger response,” Paterson said.

You can read the AMSANT media release here.

Possible positive COVID-19 case in Timber Creek

A possible positive COVID-19 case was recorded in Timber Creek yesterday and is being re-tested to confirm the result. Image source: CareFlight, ABC News.

Importance of timely COVID-19 booster vaccination

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) states that the COVID-19 vaccines used in Australia are critical in protecting against COVID-19 due to all variants, including the newly emerged Omicron variant. Given the likelihood of ongoing transmission of both Omicron and Delta variants, ATAGI recommends COVID-19 booster vaccination for anyone aged 18 and older who completed their primary course of COVID-19 vaccination 5 or more months ago.

Timely receipt of a booster dose is particularly important for people with increased exposure risk (e.g. occupational risk or outbreak areas) or who have risk factors for severe disease. ATAGI reiterates that a third (primary) dose of COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended for anyone with immunocompromising conditions, a minimum of two months after their second dose.

Either Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna) are recommended for use as a booster vaccine, and are considered equally acceptable. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, has been provisionally approved for use as a COVID-19 booster vaccine in people aged 18 years and older by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) as of 12 December 2021.

You can read the ATAGI statement on the Omicron variant and timing of COVID-19 booster vaccination here, and you can read the ATAGI recommendations on the use of Moderna as a COVID-19 booster vaccine here.

COVID-19 Dose One vial, Dose Two vial & Booster vial - ticks on first two doses

Image source: NIH Director’s Blog.

10-year preventive health strategy plan

Yesterday 13 December 2021, the Australian Government launched the National Preventive Health Strategy, a 10-year plan to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians at all stages of life. The Strategy seeks to improve Australia’s health system, fundamentally focused on the treatment of illness and disease, by increasing the focus on prevention – from illness to wellness, and from healthcare to health.

Chronic conditions are the leading cause of ill health and death in Australia and account for 87% of deaths. The Strategy recognises that around 38% of the chronic disease burden could be prevented through a reduction in modifiable risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity and the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. This figure rises to be 49% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Strategy identifies 7 key system enablers that will be integral to creating long-term, sustainable changes to the health system for all Australians, outlining seven focus areas that require critical action to reduce the risks of poor health and disease:

  • nutrition
  • physical activity
  • tobacco
  • immunisation
  • cancer screening
  • alcohol and other drug use;
  • and mental health.

You can read the Government Department of Health‘s media release here.
The National Preventive Health Strategy can be downloaded here.

National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030

Tracking progress in First Nations’ health

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has published a data visualisation tool for tracking progress against the 20 Implementation Plan goals for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023. It presents data for each of the 20 goals, and assesses progress against the goals at the national level.

Of the 14 goals for which updates were available, 5 were on track, 6 were not on track and 3 were not assessed.

Some of the key findings:

  • In 2019, 64% of Indigenous mothers had antenatal care in the first trimester and 89% attended 5+ antenatal visits.
  • The proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15–17 who had never smoked increased from 61% in 2002 to 85% in 2018–19.
  • In 2020, 97% of Indigenous children aged 5 were fully immunised, compared with 95% of other children.

You can read more about the AIHW tracking progress here and you can view the report here.
View the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2012-2023 here.

Exciting opportunity for Aboriginal health students

Aboriginal health students across the Northern Territory can now apply for the 2022 NT Health Aboriginal Cadetship Program. The Program is a key ‘entry to practice’ initiative for NT Health to achieve greater representation of tertiary educated Aboriginal employees and increase Aboriginal health professionals in our workforce.

NT Health currently supports five cadets and will offer a sixth space in the 2022 intake.

The program assists eligible NT Aboriginal students undertaking their first undergraduate degree or postgraduate studies to gain professional health qualifications in skill shortage areas. Additionally, the program provides work placement and experience within NT Health.

The program is funded by NT Health and will provide successful cadets with:

  • Study allowance of up to $1200 per fortnight whilst engaged in full time studies
  • Book allowance of up to $1000 per year
  • An incentive payment of up to $4000 per year
  • 12 weeks paid on the job work placement during the university major academic breaks.

NT Health has a dedicated Aboriginal Workforce Development unit that administers the program. The unit’s staff will provide ongoing mentoring and support to the cadets for the term of their cadetship.

You can read the media release by NT Minister for Health Natasha Fyles here.
Further cadetship information can be found on the NT Health website.

NT Health Aboriginal Cadetship Program. Image Source: NT Health Facebook page.

NT Health Aboriginal Cadetship Program. Image Source: NT Health Facebook page.

Covid Song – Ali Curung

Check out this great Red Dust video with a straight-up message from the Ali Curung mob made with the help of Barkly Shire Council and Anyingini Health Aboriginal Corporation.

“I don’t want to see you get sick when the COVID comes in quick. We gotta get the jab before it’s too late. No time to hesitate. I got one, two, what about you! What ya gonna do? What ya gonna do when the COVID comes?”

“Yeah, we gotta do it for our families. To protect our communities. Go to the clinic and check the facts. We’re only safe when we all get vaxxed!”

Managing inappropriate comments online

The Department of Health has created a guide that can help your service with managing inappropriate comments and misinformation on your social media channels. There has recently been a significant spike in online activity and emotion. This high level guide provides information about steps your service can take to moderate inappropriate comments and content on your pages.

You can download the social media guide here.

Word cloud - misinformation

 

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Lung cancer, fifth most common cancer

feature tile text 'almost 100 per month in WA diagnosed with lunch cancer' & image of pair of lungs, one healthy pink, one black with cancer

Lung cancer, fifth more common cancer

CANCER Council WA is using November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month to remind those living in regional WA of the symptoms of lung cancer and what to do if they notice any unusual changes to their body. It’s important to visit your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker right away if you experience any symptoms.

If you’ve coughed up blood or had a long-standing cough that worsens or changes, repeated chest infections, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite or persistent chest or shoulder pain, then it’s important to get it investigated. It doesn’t mean you’ve got cancer, often it turns out to be something less serious, though it’s critical to have the symptoms investigated early to be sure.

Remember, the chances of successful treatment are much higher when cancer is found early. Lung cancer was the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2017 and the most common cause of cancer death in 2019 according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data. In WA in 2018, 1,155 people were diagnosed with lung cancer and 752 people died from it.80% of lung cancers in Australia are caused by smoking.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Oncology News Australia.

ACT mob hit hard by COVID-19

There have now been 197 cases in the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community during the latest outbreak. 11% of all cases in the ACT during this outbreak have identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak has had a disproportionate effect on the ACT’s Indigenous community. She noted the ACT Government is working with community partners, including Winnunga Nimmityjah, Gugan Gulwan and Yeddung Mura to enable culturally responsive support for the community.

CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah, Julie Tongs, said the Aboriginal health service no longer requires appointments for vaccination. “You can just come in to Winnunga whenever you can,” Ms Tongs said. “Getting our mob vaccinated is now the most important thing we can do to protect our families and community. Remember that vaccination prevents serious illness related to COVID-19.”

To view the Canberra Weekly article in full click here.

CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah, Julie Tongs. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Genuine COVID-19 concerns for SA mob

Less than 40% of SA’s Aboriginal population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest data, prompting calls for greater protection of remote communities when the state reopens its borders in three weeks. Federal government figures show that as of last Tuesday, only 37.8% of Aboriginal people in the state over the age of 15 are fully vaccinated, while 51.3% have received a first dose.

Flinders University senior lecturer and epidemiologist Dr Emma Miller said lagging Indigenous jab rates came down to three “compounding” issues: low socioeconomic status, lack of resources and cultural sensitivity. Miller said the vaccination disparity echoes similar inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in health outcomes for chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

To view the INDAILY article in full click here.

Dr Emma Miller. Image source: Flinders Foundation website.

Medicare to cover case conferencing

New Medicare items will encourage eligible health providers to work together more closely to support the health of vulnerable Australians. Allied health professionals will – for the first time – be reimbursed through Medicare for taking part in case conferences to support people with chronic diseases or young children with developmental disorders like autism.

$13.7 million has been committed in the 2021–22 Budget to create the new Medicare items – in response to recommendations to the MBS Review – which will also increase the number of doctor-led multidisciplinary case conferences in primary care.

Under the change, allied health professionals will be paid to attend multidisciplinary conferences held by the patient’s regular doctor – in person, via video conference or phone –to discuss diagnosis, care and treatment plans.

To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full click here.

Image source: Evensi website.

Us Mob and HIV

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has just launched the ‘Us Mob and HIV’ website. Us Mob & HIV began as a health promotion resource (pocket-sized booklet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, produced by the AFAO, with the aim of increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s knowledge about HIV and its impacts.

The booklet provides basic information on HIV, focusing on HIV testing, transmission, prevention, HIV treatments, health monitoring, care and support available for people with HIV, as well as service contact details. Information on HIV treatments, testing and other topics has been updated for the latest edition and importantly, it provides a clear explanation of the concept of undetectable viral load.

The booklet includes a series of ‘yarns’ written by community members, designed to reinforce and personalise key health messages. Information is also communicated in visual form.

To access the Us Mob and HIV website click here.

Unique addiction-breaking prison program

52 prisoners have graduated from a unique new rehabilitation program at Casuarina Prison, designed to break the cycle of addiction to alcohol and other drugs that so often leads to criminal behaviour. The nine-month program, called Solid Steps, was developed by the Department of Justice in conjunction with external service providers the Palmerston Association and Wungening Aboriginal Corporation. It is the first residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation program to be delivered in an adult male prison in WA.

Department of Justice Director General, Dr Adam Tomison, said breaking the cycle of addiction is critical to improving community safety in the longer term, “The program is based on a culturally safe, modified therapeutic community model. It also strengthens connection to self, family, culture and community.”

To view the media release about the program click here.

Image source: WA Government website.

Innovative aged care workforce solutions

In an ageing society, there are increasing demands for personal care workers as well as an existing shortage of personal care workers. How do we address this dilemma to ensure quality care can be accessed by all who need it? What can be done to encourage and then retain people in personal care jobs in regional and remote areas? How can we make personal care a destination career instead of framing these important roles as steppingstones to vertical career progression?

A collaborative workshop is being held from 13:00 PM – 14:00 PM Wednesday 17 November 2021 where attendees and speakers will work together to share their insights and collaborate on ideas to develop solutions to address these concerns. The aim of the workshop is to create a statement that could be used as the basis for a future roadmap for what needs to happen to attract, keep and adequately value personal carers.

You can register for the workshop here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

COVID-19 vaccine update for GPs webinar

The latest in the Australian Government Department of Health’s series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs webinar will be held from: 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM (AEST) tomorrow, Thursday 4 November 2021.

At this webinar, you’ll be provided with the latest information on the vaccine rollout. GPs and all health professionals are welcome. Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health will chair the session tomorrow and will be joined by guest panelists Dr Sonya Bennett, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Dr Tanya Robertson, GP, Yarralumla Surgery, Canberra.

When you’re ready to join, use this link. The webinar will have live captioning and be available to view on-demand via the same link within a few hours of the live stream ending.

National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week

This year’s National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week will be held 8-14 November 2021. The disruptions of the past 2 years have impacted people’s ability to access healthcare and the battle to stay up to date with cancer screenings continues. An awareness raising campaign for 2021, will again remind women that it is “Time to Catch Up” with their cervical screening. In 2020, The World Health Organisation launched the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer by 2028.

For more information about National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: AIDA reinforces the message, get vaccinated

feature tile text 'AIDA reinforces message to ATSI communities, get vaccinated ASAP' & image of gloved hands injecting arm of woman wearing face mask

AIDA reinforces the message, get vaccinated

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is deeply saddened to hear about the death of a 50-year-old Aboriginal man in Dubbo who succumbed to COVID-19 this week. AIDA has offered heartfelt condolences to his family and the broader Aboriginal community in western NSW. It is believed that he is the first Aboriginal person to die of COVID in Australia.

“The Aboriginal community-controlled sector has been working extremely hard to avoid this outcome; it was the news we were hoping we would never have to hear,” said Dr Simone Raye, Vice President of AIDA. “There is a lesson from this sad outcome. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities must be prioritised for the vaccine rollout and other health services related to COVID-19.”

In the wake of this news, AIDA is reinforcing its message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
“We have seen how infectious and dangerous the Delta strain of COVID-19 is,” Dr Raye said. “We need to make sure that our families and our communities are protected against COVID by getting vaccinated.”

To view the AIDA’s media release in full click here.

banner text 'AIDA Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association' & aqua concentric circles Aboriginal dot painting

Image source in feature tile: NPS MedicineWise website.

ACCHO develops ‘I want to quit’ toolkit

A NACCHO member Carbal Medical Services in Toowoomba, Queensland, has developed a ‘I want to quit’ workplace quit smoking toolkit. The toolkit aims to help workplaces to support their staff in their journey towards quitting smoking.

Each toolkit includes a range of quitting aids, such as:

  • progress journals
  • tracking charts
  • useful information and resources designed to stimulate the process of enabling long-term positive change around smoking habits.

The video below outlines what is included in the Carbal Medical Services’ ‘I want to quit’ toolkit and how it can be used in the workplace.

Another resource that may be useful is the Beat Cigarette Cravings collection of 30 second videos that highlight common triggers to smoke and how people can overcome them, produced by the Cancer Institute of NSW. The videos aim to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW to access the iCanQuit website and Aboriginal Quitline to help them in the their quitting journey. You can view one of the videos below.

CDU leads sector on staff vaccination

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Aboriginal communities, Charles Darwin University (CDU) has asked any staff travelling to and working on Aboriginal controlled land to be fully vaccinated.

From Friday 1 October 2021 all staff travelling to these areas to undertake research or fieldwork, attend meetings with stakeholders or attend events, will be required to be vaccinated. This is first for the Australian university sector and affirms CDU’s commitment to protecting vulnerable communities.

CDU Vice-Chancellor Scott Bowman said due to the University’s unique location in Northern Australia and its ongoing work and commitment to Aboriginal communities, CDU was taking a leadership role to safeguard public health. “CDU is a university that occupies a unique place in Australia, and we acknowledge this with a sense of pride and a sense of responsibility,” Professor Bowman said. “Aboriginal leaders are sending clear messages that they want people travelling to and working with communities to be vaccinated.

CDU logo & photo of masked woman holding up sleeve to show vaccination site

Image source; CDU website.

SA Rural Aboriginal Health Workforce Plan

The SA Department for Health and Wellbeing (DHW) has released a draft plan to strengthen and grow the Aboriginal health workforce as part of the Rural Health Workforce Strategy.

Commenting on the Consultation Draft South Australia’s Rural Aboriginal Health Workforce Plan 2021−26: Part of South Australia’s Rural Health Workforce Strategy, Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade said it explored strategies to ensure the State attracted, recruited and strengthened a regional Aboriginal health workforce.

“Our draft Rural Aboriginal Health Workforce Plan aims to increase the Aboriginal health workforce in regional areas and provide culturally appropriate and supportive health care for Aboriginal people, closer to home,” Mr Wade said. “Consultation with Aboriginal communities, regional Local Health Network leads, the Aboriginal health workforce and key stakeholders will occur across the State until October, and feedback will be brought together to ensure we can secure the workforce we need for the future.”

To view the article in full click here.

AHW SA, in office

Image source: Health Translation SA website.

Podcast: How to Change a Life 

In an episode of the How to Change a Life podcast, host Mary Bolling is in conversation with Sam Cooms, a Noonukul Quandamooka woman from the Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) community and PhD student at CQUniversity.

Sam explains how her Indigenous values inform both her carer role as a mum to children living with disabilities and her vision for a more inclusive society for people living with disability, in Minjerribah and nationally.

To listen to the podcast click here.

Sam Cooms portrait with trees in background

Sam Cooms. Image source: CQ University website.

Wiyi Yani U Thangani Design Committee EOIs sought

As part of the Wiyi Yani U Thangani project, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO is establishing a Wiyi Yani U Thangani Design Committee for the establishment of a National First Nations Women and Girls Advisory Body (Design Committee).

Over the course of October 2021, the Design Committee will:

  1. Design a process for selecting National First Nations Women and Girls Advisory Body, design, and implementation (Selection Process Document).
  2. Provide a draft Terms of Reference for the National First Nations Women and Girls Advisory Body including draft governance protocols and a draft scope of work (Draft ToR Document).

The Australian Human Rights Commission (Commission) is seeking six First Nations women and girls with experience in governance, systems change, gender equality, culturally informed policy, research and evaluation, community development and legislative reform.

For more information about the EOI process and requirements click here.

Interested candidates are invited to submit an expression of interest here by:
5:00pm Sunday 12 September 2021.

Aboriginal artwork & portrait of June Oscar

Artwork by Elaine chambers and Riki Slam in collaboration, Australian Human Rights Commission website. June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Image source: IndigenousX.

First Nations FASD review 

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre has published a Review of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The review states that FASD is a preventable, lifelong disability. FASD disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, however, there are limited prevalence statistics available in the mainstream Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

The review explores the role of Aboriginal women in preventing FASD and proposes that programs that work best for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are those that are done with, for and by the communities and their leaders. The authors of the review recommend that, where possible, federal and state governments should choose to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations to develop their own evidence-based, fit-for-community FASD prevention, intervention, and management strategies.

Men are largely absent in FASD interventions. Co-author Michael Doyle says, “There is a need to involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men in research to understand the role they can play in the prevention, treatment and management of FASD”.

You can access the review here.

Allied health follow-up services for Mob

Were you aware? Temporary MBS items are available to allied health practitioners to deliver vital health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians residing in Residential Aged Care Facilities. To access these allied health services, the patient must have had a health assessment. The temporary COVID-19 MBS items are available until 30 June 2022.

To support allied health practitioners, the Australian Government Health Services has developed a customised infographic that conveniently lists the available allied health services, along with the relevant face-to-face MBS service items. To view this infographic click here and to read more about Indigenous health assessments and follow up services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients click here.

Looking for learning resources? The Health Professional Education Resources Gateway has a great range of educational resources that assist allied health practitioners to provide services under MBS programs and initiatives. To access these educational products click here.

If you have any feedback on Services Australia’s education resources, please let them know as it will help them to continually improve their education products. You can provide feedback here.

female worker with female Aboriginal elder

Image source: ISACNT website.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.
dice spelling JOBS resting on keyboard

Indigenous Literacy Day

To celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day (ILD), the Indigenous Literacy Foundation is hosting a free virtual celebration for all Australians going live from 9am Wednesday 1 September. Through storytelling, ILD provides a window into the richness, diversity and multilingual world of First Nations peoples with a selection of short, inspiring video stories by First Nations storytellers (of all ages) from across the country.

Viewers can choose from a diverse range of over 50 stories from kids in remote Australia, to First Nations authors, musicians and artists such as Stella Raymond, Wayne Quilliam, Jessica Mauboy, Brenton McKenna, Maureen Jipyiliya Nampijinpa O’Keefe, Lahrissa Behrendt, Anita Heiss and more.

There is a special feature on the incredible journey of Stick Mob – a group of four young graphic novelists in Alice Springs, as well as heartwarming stories from remote schools and organisations such as Children’s Ground, Sharing stories Foundation, First Languages Australia, and SNAICC.

The short videos showcase the incredible range of stories, languages, cultures and voices of First Nations peoples, and the many ways literacy can be interpreted and understood.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Pfizer vaccine for adults under 60

feature tile text 'ATAGI recommends Pfizer covid-19 vaccine for adults 59 years and under' image of syringe drawing from vial overlaying Pfizer blue & white logo

Pfizer vaccine for adults under 60

The AMA acknowledges the latest advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommending the COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer (Comirnaty) is preferred in adults under the age of 60 years.

The AMA says the change to our COVID-19 vaccine roll out is based on the latest medical evidence and advice. “The Australian community can be reassured that the Commonwealth continues to take the advice of medical experts on how best to manage the risk of COVID-19 and target our vaccine roll out,” AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said. “ATAGI has decided the AstraZeneca vaccine should be used for those patients who are 60 years of age and over based on an assessment of the current risks of COVID-19 in the community.

“With very low rates of community transmission, ATAGI has decided that Pfizer should be the preferred vaccine for anyone under the age of 60. People who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be alarmed by this decision,” Dr Khorshid said. “The risks of serious complications, including clotting, from the AstraZeneca vaccine are very low and Australia is now very good at detecting clots in patients who’ve had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

blue gloved hand holding whit swab to upper arm, presumably following vaccination

Image source: startsat60. website.

Shorter gap between jabs

On the 8 June 2021 the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) published an updated version of the administration of 2021 seasonal influenza vaccines advice. The new advice incorporates the latest ATAGI agreed recommendations on the relative timing of administering influenza vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. The key changes in advice are as follows:

  • the preferred minimum interval between influenza vaccine and a dose of COVID-19 vaccine is 7 days (previously 14 days) a shorter interval between the two vaccines (including co-administration) is acceptable when there:
    • is increased risk of COVID-19 or another vaccine-preventable disease (e.g.) COVID-19, influenza outbreak, tetanus-prone wound)
    • are logistical issues, e.g. difficulty scheduling visits to maintain the 7 day interval
  • influenza vaccine can be given before or after any dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with a minimum interval of 7 days
  • an influenza vaccine can be given in between their two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine
  • when scheduling influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, providers should prioritise COVID-19 vaccines for patients who are eligible to receive the vaccine now, then they can schedule the influenza vaccination

A news item providing these key changes in advice can be viewed here and the Health professional update – Updated ATAGI advice on administering seasonal influenza vaccines in 2021 can be viewed here.

Vaccination providers are also reminded that it is now mandatory to report all influenza vaccinations to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) (in effect since 1 March 2021).

2 images, first of syringe & 2 vials both with'COVID-19 Vaccine' text, one with red bar & '1st Dose' one with blue bar with '2nd Dose; 2nd image of vial with text 'Influenza Virus Vaccine Flu Vaccine'

Image sources: University of Oxford and Elite Medical Center website.

Canadian First Nations incredible vaccine update

To view the article in full click here.

norther Alberta Canada medical reception room, masked Kehewin Cree Nation elders pray at a ceremony marking the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine; two female elders are sitting with colourful traditional rugs across knees

Kehewin Cree Nation elders pray at a ceremony marking the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine in the northern Alberta community on 8 February 2021. Image source: Radio Canada International website.

Investment in Aboriginal education

Thrive by Five, the national campaign to reform early learning and childcare, has welcomed the NSW Government’s $23 million investment in Indigenous early learning announced in the State Budget. The Berejiklian Government investment will help increase opportunities for First Nations children to learn the language of their heritage, as well as increasing the enrolment of Indigenous children in early learning. “The science is very clear. Children’s brains grow to 90 per cent of the size of an adult brain during their first five years. This makes those years absolutely critical to ensuring children have the opportunity thrive,” Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said.

To view the Minderoo Foundation media release in full click here.

banner blue with 2 yellow triangle; 1 red square, yellow semi-circle, 2 mint semi-circles, 1 mint circle, blue background, text 'every child deserves the best start' in white text with yellow font for 'deserves' & the full stop; text 'join the campaign thrivebyfive.org.au; log circle, top half orange with text ' Minderoo' & lower half 'Foundation' to the right of the logo text 'thrive by five'

Image source: Thrive by Five website.

New CTG PBS Co-payment resources

New resources are available for GPs about the changes to the Closing the Gap (CTG) PBS Co-payment program due to take effect on 1 July 2021.

The CTG PBS Co-payment program was established in July 2010 to improve access to affordable PBS medicines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with, or at risk of, chronic disease, and who in their doctor’s opinion would experience setbacks in the prevention or ongoing management of chronic disease if they did not take the prescribed medicine and would be unlikely to adhere to their medicines regimen without assistance through the program.

To view the article in full click here.

doctor's room with doctor standing talking to patient (also standing); GP wearing lavender shirt with BDAC logo & lanyard

Image source: Bendigo & District Aboriginal Co-operative website.

Suicide prevention manual

Professor Pat Dudgeon welcomed 250 plus attendees to the webinar for the launch today of the Manual of Resources in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention.

The Manual is a collection of practical resources and tools that people, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous, can use to make a real difference in promoting positive mental health and social emotional wellbeing, and preventing suicide in our communities.

To view the manual click here.

Professor Pat Dugeon sitting a desk holding hand out to computer screen, surrounded by windows all looking out onto green trees

Professor Pat Dudgeon delivering her Acknowledgement of Country during webinar for launch of the Manual of Resources in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention.

Achieving healthy, safe digital ecosystems

New research led by Noongar researcher Dr Tristan Kennedy shows that social media offers many benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, such as ways to establish and navigate identity and build and maintain strong connections to family and community. But it also found significant negative impact, with 97% of Indigenous people surveyed saying they experienced negative content on social media on a weekly basis, “grounded in ways of talking about Indigenous people and racist ideas that have pervaded Australian settler-colonial history”.

Concerned that the cultural subtleties of offensive content are not readily identified by non-Indigenous platform moderators, the research identified the need to employ more Indigenous peoples in the platforms, but also in government, policy making institutions and education more generally.

The findings underscored issues raised by Associate Professor Megan Williams, about how important platforms like Facebook can be for communities and for raising issues more broadly. But she was also concerned by the “vitriol and racism” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face online and how their voices are missing at the table of so many discussions, and from all types of media.

A Wiradjuri scholar, Assistant Director and Research Lead at the University of Sydney’s National Centre for Cultural Competence, and Co-Chair of Croakey Health Media, Williams has talked about the need to create “healthy, safe digital ecosystems”, informed by First Nations voices and knowledges, such as the resources created to support the Stolen Generations by the Healing Foundation.

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

image of earth in box made of chains with $ symbol, fire icon & gears; text 'Corporate Capture - virtual imprisonment, surveilled & harvested, disempowered, institutionalised' & earth with tree vector superimposed - text 'Healthy Digital Econsystems - Care for Country, Self determination, Public/community interest; Respect'; Relationships; Recipriocity'

Image source: Croakey.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Yarning about managing pain

feature tile text 'asking painful questions - yarning about managing pain' image of multiple coloured tablets & capsules pouring from a brown medicine bottle

Yarning about managing pain

Living with pain can be challenging and everyone experiences pain in a unique way. Opioids are commonly used for pain management. However, their role in the management of chronic non-cancer pain is limited and the potential for harm, particularly with long-term use and with higher doses, is significant.

In the new Asking painful questions video series Australians living with chronic non-cancer pain and health professionals experienced in pain management provide honest answers to questions about pain, opioids and other options for management. The videos were developed with funding from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australian Government Department of Health and in collaboration with Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) and NACCHO.

banner text 'asking painful questions - yearning about managing pain, NACCHO logo & background Aboriginal dot art, 'NPS MEDICINEWISE Independent. Not-for-profit. Evidence-based.'

Deputy CEO NACCHO, Dr Dawn Casey said, “We aim to secure the best health outcomes for our people, providing a culturally safe healthcare experience. Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use pain medicines, including opioids, safely and effectively is really important – sometimes these medicines can have big risks. Finding the best possible pain management option for our people can be challenging, especially considering when complex comorbidities. But our ACCHOs are best placed to understand the issues clients face and can provide overall health and wellbeing services that are culturally safe and meets clients’ needs, including pain management” Dr Casey further added, “The administration of effective and appropriate services provided by ACCHOs for managing pain is well demonstrated in these videos.”

Lisa Briggs, CEO of Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative Limited, said, “Managing pain is a complex and important issue for our clients.  Chronic pain can be confronting and debilitating and sometimes unfairly stigmatised.  The videos in this project have really highlighted these issues and the way that ACCHOs and culture are central to managing pain for many Aboriginal people. Through accessing holistic services and support through ACCHOs, such as Wathaurong, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the best chance of managing their pain effectively.”

Watch the video of two Aboriginal men living with pain, a pharmacist and a GP talk about their experiences with chronic non-cancer pain, opioids, non-medicines approaches and pain services here.

 

ACCHOs get the results

When Kristie Watego gave birth to my third son, Luke, in 2018 her experience was vastly different to that of her previous pregnancies: “Throughout my second pregnancy I had felt categorised and disempowered. For my third pregnancy I chose to receive my care through the Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) program, offered to women pregnant with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander bub booked to birth at Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane. I was surrounded by a team who took the time to hear me and to listen. When it was time for Luke to be born my extended family were there and were able to be involved in this magical and sacred time. The difference for me as an Aboriginal woman birthing my baby surrounded by support from a program that has been designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was astounding.

Kristie Watego’s experience is backed up by research. A paper published this year in Lancet Global Health has confirmed that babies born through the BiOC program are 50% less likely to be born premature and more likely to be breastfed – and their mothers are more likely to access antenatal care.

BiOC was established by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS), Brisbane in 2013 in partnership with Mater Mothers’ Hospital. It is a unique example of what can be achieved through genuine partnership in an Indigenous-led setting. The program was designed by Elders, mums and dads and community.

To read the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.

photo of Kristie Watego holding her sleeping son Luke to her chest

Kristie Watego, with baby Luke. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

New Medicare funding for vaccination

The AMA has welcomed the Government’s announcement of new Medicare funding for GPs to vaccinate patients against COVID-19 during home visits and visits to aged care facilities, but warned more is needed to address vaccine hesitancy in those patients over 50 years of age.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said “It is critical we complete the job of vaccinating the most vulnerable in the community as soon as possible. This measure will help plug the current gaps in COVID vaccination in aged care facilities. However, the biggest issue right now is vaccine hesitancy in the over 50s. AMA has been working with the Minister for Health and his Department to allow vaccine hesitant Australians time for a proper discussion with a GP about COVID vaccination.”

“Current Medicare funding only supports brief consultations. Yet GPs may need to spend up to 30 minutes for some patients to discuss their specific circumstances and ensure they understand the benefits of COVID vaccination. When this occurs, most Australians decide to go ahead and get vaccinated.”

Dr Khorshid said GPs had done “a wonderful job in lifting vaccination rates across the country, with the vaccine roll out accelerating significantly since general practice became involved. But the job is nowhere near done and GPs need the Government’s support to take our over 50s vaccine program to the next level. The Government needs to assure patients that if they need to spend more time with their GP discussing COVID-19 and vaccination, Medicare will cover this extra time with a GP in the interests of all Australians.”

To view the AMA’s media release in full click here.

collage of 3 images Medicare cards, vaccine being drawn, gold dollar symbol

Image sources clockwise: The Australian; Medical Economics; AMA.

COVID-19 posters for health clinics

The Australian Government Department of Health have produced a collection of materials created for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vaccine providers to download and print to utilise in their health clinics and practices. These materials include posters, social media resources, handouts and web banners.

A recent inclusion to the suite of resources is a printable posters stating they are a COVID-19 vaccination site, and what vaccines they have available for the public.

To view the range of resources including the poster click here. DoH poster 'We are a Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination clinic Talk to reception to make an appointment. health.gov.au/covid19-vaccines COVID-19 vaccination'

Protect your little one from flu

Influenza in kids can be serious. This year getting vaccinated against flu is more important than ever. It is the best way to protect your child and others from flu. The influenza vaccine is available free for children aged 6 months to under 5 years under the National Immunisation Program. Flu (influenza) is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause widespread illness and deaths every year. It is a leading cause of hospitalisation for children aged under 5 years. Vaccination is our best defence against flu viruses and is free for children aged 6 months to under 5 years under the National Immunisation Program.

Increased hand washing and social distancing helped to stop the spread of flu viruses last year. However, flu could recirculate this season as we relax restrictions. Vaccinating yourself and your child against influenza this year is more important than ever as we lead into the colder months. For further information on influenza in kids click here.

Last week the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) announced that the time between COVID-19 and flu vaccination has been reduced to 7 days.

NSW Government poster text 'Protect your little one from flu - FREE flu shots for all Aboriginal children - Ask you health worker of GP - It's in your hands' image of Aboriginal hand held up palm facing camera, 2 fingers turned down, thumb black ink child, one finger face & syringe, other finger happy face

Image source: NSW Government Aboriginal children flu poster.

Community liver cancer rates rise

The Australian study just published in international Lancet journal EClinicalMedicine reveals the survival difference was largely accounted for by factors other than Indigenous status – including rurality, comorbidity burden and lack of curative therapy. The study of liver cancer, or Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), included 229 Indigenous and 3587 non-Indigenous HCC cases in SA, Queensland and the NT.

“The major finding was important differences in cofactors for HCC between Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients, with Indigenous patients more frequently having multiple cofactors for HCC such as hepatitis B, diabetes and alcohol misuse,” says Flinders University Professor Alan Wigg, who led the investigation.

While cancer care is difficult to deliver to remote Australia, he says HCC is preventable with surveillance. “What is needed is a culturally appropriate model of care that in rural communities that screens for liver disease and identifies at risk patients,” says Professor Wigg, who also is Head of Hepatology and Liver Transplant Medicine Unit at the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network in SA.

To view the Flinders University media release click here.

blue gloved hands holding surgical instruments removing pieces of red jigsaw puzzle of a liver

Image source: Johns Hopkins Medicine website.

Age of criminal responsibility – national action needed

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, says CEOs of the national COSS Network, ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury MLA, and ACT Minister responsible for Youth Justice Emma Davidson MLA will call for the Commonwealth, states, and territories to follow the ACT’s lead and raise the age of criminal responsibility. There is overwhelming medical consensus that locking away children as young as 10 can cause lifelong damage to their mental health and cognitive development. However, despite this evidence the only jurisdiction to commit to raising the age of criminal responsibility is the ACT. There is nothing stopping states and territories from acting in the best interest of children and of the community. The time to raise the age is now.

To view the ACTCOSS media alert click here.

blurred image of youth with arm outstretched and palm facing camera obscuring face

Image source: The Conversation.

SA Elder abuse campaign

Respecting the rights and safety of older Aboriginal people is the focus of a new video series being unveiled today, to coincide with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said Office for Ageing Well has launched the set of videos as part of its Respect.Connect awareness campaign, which will target Aboriginal communities over the next five years. “Office for Ageing Well has joined forces with Aboriginal community representatives for the first time, to develop the videos featuring Aboriginal ambassadors talking about the importance of keeping Elders safe,” Minister Wade said. “The Respect.Connect campaign emphasises that valuing and respecting Aboriginal Elders and their wisdom is the pathway to maintaining culture and building a better future.”

To view the Government of SA media release click here. and to view the Respect.Connect. campaign for Aboriginal communities click here.banner text 'respect connect #stopelderabuse' golden yellow background, purple text with Aboriginal art blue, purple, pink, lavender, golden yellow

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Grants to support mental health of new parents

Feature tile - Mon 7.6.21 - Grants to support mental health of new parents

Grants to support mental health of new parents

The Morrison government is providing $16.6 million in grants to support the mental health and wellbeing of expectant and new parents through nine new projects.

It is estimated that up to 10% of women experience depression while pregnant, and one in seven women in the year after birth. Men can also experience perinatal mental illness, with approximately one in 10 expectant and new fathers experiencing depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress in the perinatal period.

Some of the grants under the mental health initiative include:

  • $2.59 million for the University of Newcastle to deliver the SMS4dads digital prevention and early intervention service for fathers, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers, living in rural and remote regions.
  • $750,000 for Possums for Mothers and Babies to deliver training and professional peer support for health professionals and new parents in rural communities.
  • $250,000 for the Murdoch University Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity to produce health practitioner training materials and develop a mobile phone-based app version of the Baby Coming You Ready assessment and screening program for Aboriginal women.

You can read the full story and find out more about the other grants here.

Man pushing pram through park. Image source AAP.

Image source: AAP.

Yolngu Elders kick off COVID-19 vaccinations across Arnhem Land

Miwatj Health are gearing up for a COVID-19 vaccination blitz across the remote northern region of Arnhem Land.

Terry Yumbulul, Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation’s Chief Culture Advisor and Head of Regionalisation, and CEO Eddie Mulholland, had their Pfizer vaccine in Gove last week.

They were joined by 10 Board Members of Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation and other local leaders who received their vaccine in an effort to encourage others in the community.

ABC Radio Darwin’s Jo Laverty spoke with Terry Yumbulul about his experience and whether other Yolngu people would follow suit.

You can listen to the ABC Radio Darwin On Breakfast broadcast with Jolene Laverty here.

Yolngu Elder receives vaccine at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation.

Yolngu Elder receives vaccine at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News.

Healing the past project seeking participants

Becoming a parent is exciting but it can be hard. Particularly for parents who have experienced difficulties in their own childhood, which can have long lasting effects on physical, social and emotional wellbeing. This can make the transition to parenthood difficult, causing distress and challenges to creating a nurturing environment for a new baby. On the flip side, growing research shows that becoming a parent offers a unique life-time opportunity to heal from this childhood hurt.  

‘Healing the past by nurturing the future’ (video) is a community-based participatory research project which is working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) parents to develop awareness and support strategies that could be offered during the perinatal period to support Aboriginal parents experiencing complex trauma.  

The team are looking for participants for this important research project who are:  

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people  
  • living in the NT, SA or Victoria, and  
  • are pregnant, have a partner who is pregnant or have a child (under 5 years in SA; or any age in NT or Vic).  

To learn more about the project, please contact Cindy from the research team on 0492 850 298, or email hpnf@latrobe.edu.au, or visit the website here.

Healing the Past - Image 1

Healing the Past – Illustration.

Cultural connectedness can reduce suicide rates

An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia ‘Suicide rates for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: the influence of community level cultural connectedness’ examines associations between community cultural connectedness indicators and suicide mortality rates for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This retrospective mortality study looks at suicide deaths of people aged 10‒19 years recorded by the Queensland Suicide Register between 2001‒2015.

The age‐specific suicide rate was 21.1 deaths per 100,000 persons/year for First Nations young people and 5.0 deaths per 100,000 persons/year for non‐Indigenous young people. The rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people was higher in areas with low levels of cultural social capital (greater participation of community members in cultural events, ceremonies, organisations, and community activities) than in areas classified as having high levels, and also in communities with high levels of reported discrimination. Associations with proportions of Indigenous language speakers and area level socio‐economic resource levels were not statistically significant.

The study found that suicide mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Queensland were influenced by community level culturally specific risk and protective factors. The findings suggest that strategies for increasing community cultural connectedness at the community level and reducing institutional and personal discrimination could reduce suicide rates.

You can read the full article here.

Aboriginal youth sitting, resting his head in his hand

Image source: ABC News.

NDIS personalised budgets

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIS) has released new papers on Personalised Budgets to give more information on the way they propose to build participant budgets in the future.

In 2020 they released a paper on proposed changes to the planning policy for Personalised Budgets and plan flexibility, and encouraged participants, families, carers and the wider sector to respond. The feedback was that people want fairer decisions. People also wanted the NDIS to be more transparent about how they worked out the funds in participants’ plans.

The Personalised Budgets papers give you more information on how the NDIS are developing the new budget model and how they propose budgets will be built.

There are three versions of the Personalised Budgets paper available for increased accessibility. They include:

  1. Personalised Budgets – technical information paper
  2. Personalised Budgets – information paper for participants, their families and carers
  3. Easy Read Guide – A new way to work out how much funding you receive in your NDIS plan

You can read more about the Personalised Budget paper on the NDIS website here.

NDIS - Personalised Budgets

Health Check 2020

‘Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap – Health Check 2020’

In 2018, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to a genuine, formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives to develop the Closing the Gap strategy for the next decade. Governments acknowledged the need for a respectful, collaborative approach with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to achieve productive and sustainable outcomes.

To give effect to that commitment, the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap 2019-2029 (Partnership Agreement) was negotiated and agreed to by the Coalition of Peaks and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in March 2019. The Partnership Agreement provides an historic opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives to be heard and incorporated into policy and program dimensions across all levels of government. The Partnership Parties committed to an annual Health Check of the Partnership Agreement and agreed to the development and subsequent annual review of a Partnership Risk Register. The objective of the Health Check is to review the state of the Partnership Agreement against success indicators agreed by the Parties. This report gives an account of the first Health Check and includes a draft Risk Register.

This Health Check has found that the Partnership Agreement has been successful in achieving the coming together of the Coalition of Peaks and Governments in partnership to support the Parties’ decision to negotiate a new National Agreement.

You can view the full report here.

Partnership Health Check to inform the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Partnership Health Check to inform the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Digital mental health resources

In honour of National Reconciliation Week, the eMHPrac E-Mental Health in Practice website has decided to explore the Digital Mental Health Resources developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in mind. These resources include culturally relevant and evidence-based information, advice, stories, support, and counselling.

There are a range of digital mental health resources available to support individuals, families, friends, and communities including:

  • WellMob
  • Beyond Blue
  • MindSpot Clinic
  • Stay Strong
  • iBobbly
  • Deadly Tots App
  • headspace Yarn Safe
  • eheadspace
  • HitNet Community Hub
  • iTalk Studios
  • Kurdiji
  • Positive Choices
  • Proppa Deadly
  • Yarning SafeNStrong

For more information on these resources, you can:

  • download a digital brochure here;
  • order a hardcopy brochure here; or
  • visit the website here.

emhprac Brochure - Digital Mental Health Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Telehealth gives everyone better healthcare access

feature tile text 'Ongoing Telehealth drives innovation and gives everyone better access to healthcare' image of two Aboriginal men & health professional looking at a screen

Telehealth gives everyone better healthcare access

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has welcomed the extension of Medicare coverage for telehealth consultations for GPs, allied health and specialists to the end of 2021.

To be able to consult with your health care provider by phone or video was an important step in making ongoing healthcare safer for patients during the early days of the pandemic. “This was particularly essential for people with complex and chronic conditions who needed ongoing care.” said the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells.

Before the introduction of the telehealth items, there was fear and concern in the community about the spread and virulence of the virus, to the extent that many people stopped going to their regular medical appointments and were also not following up on referrals. “It makes good use of the technology we already have, Ms Wells said. “Ongoing, telehealth is about modernising Medicare. “Telehealth supports treatment and management plans and has considerable benefits when combined with face-to-face consultations, Ms Wells said.

“Telehealth also presents the opportunity to accelerate new ways of delivering health care – building on remote monitoring and consultations that are already happening in rural and other health care settings”, said Ms Wells.  “This means that many rural and regional patients receive fairer opportunities to access health care as they can more often avoid costly travel and accommodation in capital cities.

To view the CHF media release in full click here. Image in the feature tile is from The Fred Hollows Foundation website.

female health professional in a pod at Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids setting up a therapy session with a child in a rural school

In a pod at Royal Far West’s Centre for Country Kids setting up a therapy session with a child in a rural school. Photo: Denise WIltshire. Image source: Partyline magazine.

BBV & STI Strategy Implementation Workshop

The Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee (BBVSS) provides national leadership and advice to the Australian Health Protections Principal Committee on strategic policy, social issues, emerging risks and priority actions. Its membership is comprised of representatives from jurisdictional and peak bodies which address blood borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). The Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses (BBV) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Strategy articulates the vision, principles, goals, and targets for a national response to BBV and STI in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for the period 2018 to 2022.

The second BBVSS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander BBV and STI Strategy workshop BBV and STI Strategy making an IMPACT in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities was held last week on Thursday 22 April 2021. The workshop, facilitated by Adjunct Professor Jeanette Ward, discussed a range of matters including access to Point of Care Testing, Workforce composition, funding and retention, effective community education, health promotion strategies and critical actions for the BBVSS over the next 18 months to accelerate implementation of the Fifth Strategy in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

10 of the attendees at the BBV STI Strategy Implementation Workshop 22 April 2021

Attendees at the BBV & STI Strategy Implementation Workshop 22 April 2021.

Dan Murphy’s store will add fuel to drinking problem

Helen Fejo-Frith, 73, likes a bit of a tussle. A former football coach and player in the Top End, she is combative, tough and proud. On a balmy Darwin evening, Helen roams the streets greeting neighbours, walking on her hardened bare feet. She explains it’s likely shards of glass and bits of gravel are lodged into her soles. Her current stoush has been going on for five years. She likens it to a David and Goliath-like contest. Her opponent is retail giant Woolworths. “I’m retired now, but I’ll keep fighting this,” she says.

Helen lives in Bagot, an Aboriginal community located off a main road leading into the city of Darwin, where alcohol and drinking is banned.

To view the ABC News article Community leaders say new Dan Murphy’s store will add fuel to fire of town’s drinking problem click here.

photo of Helen Fejo-Frith in pink & red sleeveless dress standing on footpath with hand on metal gate & determined look on her face

Helen Fejo-Firth. Photo: Shaun Kingma. Image source: ABC News website.

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is also calling  upon the NT Government to urgently reconsider its plans to allow a Dan Murphy’s superstore to be built next to electively dry communities in Darwin. “This governmental direction completely undermines the efforts of the Bagot people to protect their community, and their health. We require a government that listens to, and respects First Nations voices above that of large corporations,” AMSA President Sophie Keen said today.

AMSA Indigenous Portfolio Manager Bradley Goff said the members of the Bagot community have exercised their right to self-determination through electively having their community declared dry under the Liquor Act (2019). “This was a course of action grounded in a desire to minimise the impact of alcohol on their community,” Mr Goff said. “The development of a liquor superstore within walking distance of the Bagot community not only jeopardises the effectiveness of their actions, but also renders farcical the legislative provisions that afforded them the opportunity for self-determination in regards to alcohol access.”

To view the AMSA’s media release in full click here.

artist's impression of the proposed Dan Murphy's store near Darwin Airport - top down image of large white roof of store & covered parking & green grass & hedge area

Artist’s impression of the proposed Dan Murphy’s store near Darwin Airport. Image supplied by NT Airports. Image source: ABC News website.

General Practice COVID-19 Update

The latest in a webinar series of COVID-19 vaccine updates for GPs will take place from 11:30 AM-12:30 PM (AEST) Thursday 29 April 2021.

The webinar will provide the latest information on the vaccine rollout, presented by a panel of Australian Government Department of Health representatives: Dr Lucas de Toca (Chair) First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response; Nick Henderson, Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce; and Dr Steph Davis, General Practitioner and Primary Care Response.

For further details click here.GP COVID-19 update Professor Michael Kidd AM, photo of Prof Kidd in suit & blue purple image of COVID-19 cell under a microscope

Refreshed Prescribing Competencies Framework

NPS MedicineWise has released a refreshed Prescribing Competencies Framework. The Prescribing Competencies Framework describes the competencies that health professionals require to prescribe medicines judiciously, appropriately, safely and effectively in the Australian healthcare system. NPS MedicineWise recognises the ongoing need for, and value of, a consistent and standard approach to prescribing for all health professionals with prescribing rights.

Since the publication of the original framework in 2012, prescribing rights have been extended to new professional groups. This places an onus on a broader range of health professionals to contribute to quality use of medicines within their scope of practice. The need for, and value of, a consistent and standard approach to prescribing for all health professionals with prescribing rights is therefore ever more prevalent. Adequately preparing health professionals to prescribe within a quality use of medicines framework is essential.

As the national steward of Quality Use of Medicines, NPS MedicineWise, in consultation with key stakeholders in the sector, has undertaken a review of the original framework to ensure the document is contemporary, relevant and fit for purpose in order to continue to be of value in supporting quality prescribing decisions by all prescribers.cover of 'Prescribing Competencies Framework - Embedding quality use of medicines into practice - 2nd edition published April 20231, Review April 2025, NPS MEDICINEWISE - photo of woman smiling looking at medicine box, blurry pharmacy shelves in background

Decolonising medical education research

A recent article The role of governance in Indigenous medical education research considers the role of governance in Indigenous medical education research through the lens of an Australian Aboriginal research project titled Healing Conversations. The Healing Conversations project is developing and testing a targeted educational framework for improved clinical communication between healthcare practitioners and Australian Aboriginal peoples in regional and urban locations. It is proposed that an effective governance approach can support Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders to work together in decision-making structures to enable outcomes that promote and prioritise Indigenous worldviews and values in medical education research.

To view the article in full click here.

photo of word 'decolonise' in blue paint & handprints in purple lime & orange paint on cardboard against concrete pebble wall & paved floor

Photo: Louisa Billeter. Image source: OXFAM From Poverty to Power blog page.

Fears NDIS reforms will be traumatic & triggering

A doctor of 20 years with patients from the Stolen Generations says she fears contentious National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) reforms will traumatise and trigger vulnerable people who already hold deep misgivings about government institutions. Debra Blackmore, a GP with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, made the comments in a submission to the bipartisan parliamentary committee looking into NDIS independent assessments, which have sparked sector-wide backlash.

The proposed assessments (expected to take around three hours), which new NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds has put on hold for the time being, would see people outsourced to a government-approved health professional they don’t know to determine their eligibility for the scheme and the support they receive. Critics say the reforms are a cost-cutting move that will make it harder for people to access the NDIS, leave existing participants worse off and force vulnerable people to be assessed by strangers who don’t know their nuanced medical history.

To view the article in full click here.

an Aboriginal flag flies outside Parliament House in Canberra

Image source: SBS News website.

Did ya wash ya hands?

The NT’s Department of Health and Families No Germs on Me is a social marketing campaign to raise awareness of, and promote the benefits of regular face washing and hand washing with soap. The campaign is designed to be used in schools, at home and in the community to prevent the spread of germs and respiratory illnesses. It was developed to address the high rates of infection among children in Aboriginal communities.

The aim of the campaign was to motivate men, women and children to regularly wash their hands with soap after going to the toilet, after changing babies’ nappies and before touching food. The resources were developed with the assistance of focus groups and in-depth interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Top End and Central Australia, which determined the barriers and drivers to people routinely washing their hands with soap.

To view No Germs on Me campaign resources click here.

no germs on me logo, outline of two hands against splattered orange paint with white text 'no germs on me!'

Image source: Food Safety Information Council.

World Immunisation Week

Saturday 24 – Friday 30 April 2021

World Immunisation Week – celebrated every year in the last week of April – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunisation saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. Yet, there are still nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need, and many miss out on vital vaccines during adolescence, adulthood and into old age.

Using the theme ‘Vaccines bring us closer, World Immunization Week 2021 will urge greater engagement around immunisation globally to promote the importance of vaccination in bringing people together, and improving the health and wellbeing of everyone, everywhere throughout life. As part of the 2021 campaign, WHO, partners and individuals around the world will unite to:

  • increase trust and confidence in vaccines to maintain or increase vaccine acceptance
  • increase investment in vaccines, including routine immunisation, to remove barriers to access

For more information about World Immunization Week 2021 click here.

banner text 'Vaccines Bring Us Closer World Immunization Week 2021' text maroon colour, background dusty pink colour & arm of Aboriginal child & gloved hand with syringe holding arm

Image sources: World Health Organisation & SBS NITV website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: COVID-19 vaccine info in Yolŋu Matha and English languages

COVID-19 vaccine info in Yolŋu Matha and English languages

In these vaccine information videos produced by Menzies School of Health Research, you will see Elders and community members discuss about vaccines, answer some pertinent questions and direct you to seek advice from your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
Watch the video featuring COVID-19 expert Dr Jane Davies, Melanie and Rosemary click here.
English videos

Yolŋu Matha:

VIDEO 1: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: Why do we need a vaccine? 

VIDEO 2: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: What is the vaccine? Is the vaccine safe? 

VIDEO 3: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: What happens when I get the vaccine? How will I feel after I get the vaccine? 

VIDEO 4: Covid-19 vaccine info for Yolŋu: How does the vaccine affect people with chronic conditions? Do pregnant women and children get the vaccine?  

VIDEO 5: If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, ask your AHP, nurse or doctor. Or call the COVID hotline on 1800 020 080 

Protect yourself, Elders and your community and get a COVID-19 vaccine when it’s your turn. Learn more click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update – March 2021

This March 2021 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Partnership Forums update provides information on the department’s work on Indigenous health policies and programs on:

  • Refreshed National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19
  • COVID-19 Communication activities
  • COVID-19 vaccine rollout
  • National Guidance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban and regional settings
  • Indigenous interpreting service and translated resources available via My Aged Care
  • New grant opportunity for design of rural and remote primary health care services
  • Allied health measures in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs)
  • Mental health support during COVID-19
  • Renewal of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy
  • Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing Program
  • Seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement (7CPA)
  • The National Preventive Health Strategy
  • Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol
  • United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs
  • The Roadmap for Hearing Health
  • Antimicrobial stewardship in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care)
  • Draft National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan 2021-2031 (National Workforce Plan)
  • Kava commercial importation pilot

To view the update click here.

Measuring risky drinking according to the Australian alcohol guidelines

In December 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released the revised Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC 2020).

These guidelines were created following a review of the health effects of consuming alcohol, and define drinking behaviours that Australians can follow to reduce their risk of alcohol-related disease or injury.

Australian alcohol consumption behaviours are routinely reported in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) which is undertaken every three years, the most recent collection occurring in 2019. The aim of this technical paper is to provide a methodology for measuring risky alcohol consumption according to the revised Australian alcohol guidelines.

To read the full report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2021 click here.

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing #SEWB21 Gathering

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing #SEWB21 Gathering in Perth last week was looking at ways in which effective SEWB services could and are being delivered, how this could be measured, the interaction between SEWB and tertiary mental health. More info 

Pat Dudgeon, Director of the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) and lead CI on a NHMRC Million Minds Mission Grant investigating Indigenous mental health posted on her social media page: This is the Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) Model we have been working with. It explores welbeing from an Indigenous perspective. Different domains make up what is important and these are influenced by social determinants, historical, political and cultural determinants.
The ACCHO sector has been taking this forward. I will post the full report when it is completed.
More information: There is a national strategic MH&SEWB Framework and this diagram is part of it. The Framework was never implemented. The Gathering discussed this and Gayaa Dhuwi has been tasked with refreshing and ensuring it is implemented. Victoria and Western Australia has made funding commitments already but we want the commonwealth also to commit. We are about putting the power back into our communities. Indigenous self-determination is a essential part of SEWB.
This diagram comes from a long line of effort by our communities, it goes back to the Ways Forward Report 1995 and our first MH&SEWB Framework (again not implemented). A group fo Aboriginal psychologists: Graham Gee, Clinton Schultz, Amanda Hart, Kerrie Kelly and myself had promoted it at various community conferences and then we met in Brisbane, locked oursleves away for 2 days and developed the final diagram/model and wrote a chapter for the Working Together Book 2014.

Free online training for health professionals supporting new/expecting parents

Access to training and resources has always been challenging for health and other professionals working in rural, regional and remote Australia, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for more online learning opportunities.

Recognising this need, St John of God Social Outreach now provides free online training and materials to support positive outcomes for families through its Connected Parenting resources.

The Connected Parenting resources and training materials have been created to support anyone working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, to promote secure parent child attachment and social and emotional development.

For more info click here.

Photo of Aboriginal man and pregnant partner

Image Source: NITV News.

Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2020

The most recent indicators of the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are documented in the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s annual publication, the Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2020 Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status – Health Facts – Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (ecu.edu.au)

Improvements were noted in several areas. In 2018, 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers reported smoking during pregnancy which is a decrease from 52% in 2009. The proportion of expectant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers attending antenatal care in the first trimester has increased from 50% in 2012 to 66% in 2018. In September 2020, 97% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 5 year old children were fully immunised against the recommended vaccine-preventable diseases. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people drink less alcohol than non-Indigenous people, those who do are more likely to at harmful levels. Evidence suggests better health outcomes are seen when there are adequately resourced and culturally safe alcohol and other drug services provided by community controlled organisations.

As part of the HealthInfoNet’s commitment to knowledge exchange, a plain language infographic Summary version of the Overview’s key topics has also been produced https://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/health-facts/summary-aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-health/

HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew, said ‘The 2020 Overview was written in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and I want express our admiration for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led response to OVID-19 that has lessened the impact and protected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. This exemplifies what can be achieved with strong and authoritative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. With their ongoing support we continue to strive to develop our capacity to accurately and authentically represent the data and statistics to support the efforts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce’.

banner text Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet goanna & Aboriginal dot painting black grey white yellow pink

Partnership a sign of shared commitment to Aboriginal health

Yoorana Gunya Family Healing Centre is celebrating a partnership with Western NSW Aboriginal Health, and a shared commitment to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people in Forbes.

“Twenty years ago, when I first began Yoorana Gunya, it was in a small house with very limited services,” CEO Donna Bliss says.

“This partnership will extend our services even further without losing our common goal, providing a range of health, education and family programs to both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.”

To read the full story click here.

Brendan Cutmore from Western NSW LHD, CEO Yoorana Gunya Donna Bliss, Director of Yoorana Gunya Aunty Mavis Ohlsen, Forbes Shire Mayor Phyllis Miller and Scott McLachlan from Western NSW LHD. Photo courtesy of Council.

AMA states: Time to extend telehealth further

The AMA is again calling on the Government to extend temporary COVID-19 Medicare Telehealth items until the end of the year. The current outbreak in Queensland highlights that the June extension does not go far enough.

“The Queensland outbreak and the flow-on impact on other states is a timely reminder that the pandemic is far from over,” AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“With the emergence of new and more transmissible COVID-19 variants, it is unlikely that this will be the last lockdown before the end of the year.

“But we cannot become complacent. We must continue to plan for the worst.

“We know that every time there is an outbreak, thousands of people face requirements to self isolate and telehealth ensures these patients can continue to assess care.

“Telehealth remains fundamental to the national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, by protecting the health workforce, while reducing the need for unwell patients to move around the community.

“We need to maintain continuity of care for patients during any future lockdown.

“We need a telehealth framework that can operate in the context of a pandemic response, which is exactly what these temporary telehealth items are designed to do,” AMA President Dr Khorshid said.

Read the full media release by AMA here.

Have Your Say on Suicide Prevention

South Australians are being asked to help shape a new three-year plan to reduce suicide across the state. The Premier’s Council on Suicide Prevention and Wellbeing SA are inviting all South Australians to have their say on the development of a new SA Suicide Prevention Plan for 2022-2025.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, said reducing the number of suicides in South Australia is a high priority of the Marshall Liberal Government. “Every life matters and, tragically, so many of us have been touched or impacted by suicide in some way,” Minister Wade said. “That’s why we need to hear from as many South Australians as possible about what could make a difference. We are working in partnership with the community and reaching out to people with lived experience of suicidal distress, and their loved ones, to help us make a meaningful change in suicide prevention.”

Read the full media release here.

young Aboriginal girl's hands with chipped nail polish holding another Aboriginal child's hands

Image source: Amnesty International website.

National Anti-Racism Framework plan launched

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it.

The Commission has released a concept paper detailing key components required for a national strategy to address racism and social cohesion, and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan. There has already been widespread support for the framework, including from the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke MP, and from FECCA, the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Read the National Anti-Racism Framework concept paper >>

No Room for Racism words inside yellow map of Australia in centre of Aboriginal flag

Image source: LibGuides at Ursula Frayne Catholic College.

 

JOB ALERT

Melbourne/Full-time – Aust Physio Association

Senior Policy Advisor | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.

To view position descriptions and to apply click here. 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: HAPEE Ears for Early Years campaign

Emma Donovan with sitting on a mat with her arms around her young daughter

HAPEE Ears for Early Years campaign

One in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience chronic ear disease in Australia. Luke Carroll (Actor and Playschool Presenter) and Emma Donovan (Musician), who are both parents, have joined the Hearing Australia campaign to help promote the importance of HAPEE Ears For Early Years.

Hearing Australia’s ongoing ‘Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears’ or HAPEE, is a result of a $30 million investment by the Australian Government to reduce the long term effects of ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children not yet attending full time school are eligible for a free hearing check, and this service is now available across the country, as the program has expanded to care for more communities in urban, regional and metro areas.

Gumbaynggirr, Dhungatti, Yamatji and Bibbulman woman, Emma Donovan is urging other parents and carers to have their children’s ears checked regularly. Emma’s youngest child’s hearing loss was detected early. Wiradjuri man, acclaimed actor and father, Luke Carroll, has a similar message for parents and carers,
“I think it’s extremely important for kids to get their hearing checked. It helps with their speech and their growth as a young person.

To view Hearing Australia’s press release click here.

Emma Donovan with daughter Jirriga & Luke Carroll with son Enzo

Emma Donovan with daughter Jirriga & Luke Carroll with son Enzo. Image source: Hearing Australia.

Ophthalmologists call for Voice to Parliament

The Fred Hollows Foundation, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker have joined forces to call for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution. The call supports From the Heart’s Week of Action to promote the Uluru Statement from the Heart and advocate for a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Voice to Parliament.

“As a Nation, Australia is far behind other former British colonies in addressing issues that remain as a consequence of the dispossession and occupation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, which began on 26th January 1788 and has not yet ended,” Associate Professor Rallah-Baker said. “These issues affect us all today and are not a dark and distant memory – they affect the very fibre of who we are as a Nation. Without appropriate address we can never truly decolonise and heal the scars that haunt our collective psyche. The Uluru Statement from the Heart lays out a sensible and collaborative pathway required to move forwards and make Australia truly a place of the ‘fair go’.”

To view the full article click here.

Dr Kris Rallah-Baker (Yuggera & Biri-Gubba-Juru/Yuggera man, first Indigenous ophthalmologist). (Fred Hollows Foundation) in scrubs, holding eye medical machine over Aboriginal man lying on hospital bed

Dr Kris Rallah-Baker, a Yuggera & Biri-Gubba-Juru/Yuggera man, became Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist. Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation.

Pharmacists integral to health outcomes

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has called on the Federal Government to implement four strategic measures in its 2021–22 Budget Submission that will enable pharmacists to significantly improve health outcomes for Australians. Among the PSA recommendations for the 2021–22 Federal Budget is a rebate for non-medical health professionals, such as pharmacists, for their attendance at case conferences (this will foster better collaboration and enhanced safe and quality use of medicine outcomes for patients), the establishment of a digital nationally coordinated pharmacovigilance system for primary care and funding of pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

PSA National President Associate Professor Freeman said these recommendations provide an opportunity for the government to take action to reduce medicine-related harm and utilise the skills of pharmacists to improve health outcomes for Australians. “Pharmacists are approachable, knowledgeable and highly trusted within the community and the Australian public want to see the skills of pharmacists put to full use,” he said.

To view the full article click here.

part of flat surface entirely covered with multiple coloured pills

Image source: riverbender.com.

Pharmacists urged to assist with vaccine rollout

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is urging pharmacists to join Australia’s fight against COVID-19 by taking up the Federal Government’s call to assist in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program to the community. Community pharmacists will join with other healthcare professionals such as GPs to administer the COVID-19 vaccine for the community from Phase 2 of the Commonwealth’s COVID strategy.

The PSA is encouraging pharmacists to respond to the Government’s Expression of Interest (EOI) to be trained and equipped to assist in vaccinating Australians against the coronavirus. “COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives and pharmacists have supported our community on the frontline – I am confident community pharmacists will step up to join Australia’s vaccination workforce, just as they have done throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” PSA National President Associate Professor Freeman said.

To view the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s media release click here. and to view the related Minister for Health and Aged Care’s media release click here.

gloved hand with vaccine drawing from a vial

Image source: Pharmacy Magazine.

Find Cancer Early campaign

Published Australian research shows that people living in regional Australia are 20–30%  more likely to die within five years of a cancer diagnosis than people living in metropolitan areas. Previous research in WA shows regional people present at the GP at a later stage because they are less aware of cancer symptoms, more optimistic, more laid back, less willing to seek help and sometimes make excuses for not seeking help, therefore resulting in later stage cancer diagnoses.

Cancer Council WA have launched a new mass media campaign, Regional Champions, through their Find Cancer Early program to highlight some of the lesser known symptoms of cancer to motivate regional West Australians to seek medical advice earlier. Putting off seeing your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker could be costly. 62-year-old Derek Chapman from Donnybrook, one of six regional champions featured in the campaign said “When you’re out here you can’t muck around. Stop making excuses for symptoms.”

The campaign began on Sunday 31 January appearing on regional and Aboriginal television stations across WA as well as regional and Aboriginal radio stations, regional newspapers, Facebook and YouTube.

To view the full article click here.

array of pamphlet, fact sheet & brochure Find Cancer Early symptom checklist resources

Image source: Cancer Council WA website.

First-of-its-kind gambling project

A recently launched first-of-its-kind program will help reduce gambling harm in Indigenous communities across NSW by creating a safe space online. The Talking About Gambling (TAG) project will be community driven and has been designed by experts at NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Service and The Australian National University (ANU), along with other research partners. According to Dr Megan Whitty, gambling is often referred to as the “hidden addiction” in Indigenous communities. But starting an open and honest discussion can help break down some of the stigma so communities can identify if gambling is a problem, and how it could be addressed.

To read the ANU media release about this project click here.

playing cards in red dust

Image source: ABC News website.

NCSR Cervical Program survey

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health (DoH) is conducting an independent review of the performance and operation of the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) in relation to the Cervical Program. The scope of the current review does not include the Bowel Program which may be included in a future review.

DoH is seeking your support for this review by completing this survey and forwarding it to your members for their completion. You can access a letter from Andrew Gately, Assistant Secretary, National Cancer Screening Register Branch with further information about the review by clicking here.

PwC is conducting this survey via Qualtrics. Your participation in this survey is voluntary. The survey should take approximately 10–15 minutes to complete.

Please provide your responses by 5 February 2021.

Please follow this link to participate in the NCSR Review Survey.

7 droppers suspended over test tubes, bright pink against navy background

Image source: The University of Sydney website.

Mental illness far higher in bush

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that reside in rural Australia, the risk factors associated with remote living are perpetuated by intergenerational trauma and unaddressed socioeconomic deprivation. As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 12–24 years on average are three times as likely to be hospitalised with a mental health illness than non-Indigenous young people of the same age.

Mental health-related services, where they do exist, predominantly rely on locum professionals that work on a varying, fly-in-fly-out basis. The irregularity of these services contributes to low community participation, voiding citizens of the stable and consistent support required to address mental health issues. In 2016–17, 81 in every 1,000 people in remote areas accessed Medicare-funded mental health services, compared to 495 per 1,000 people in major cities.

To view the Independent Australia article in full click here.

drone photo of outback, sparse green vegetation

Image source: Triple J Hack podcast website.

Poor mental health an incarceration risk

Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are 18 times more likely to be in custody and 17 times more likely to be on a community based supervision order than non-Indigenous young people. Successive reports over decades have shown troubling rates of incarceration among young Indigenous people.

A Productivity Commission report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing released in December 2020 found that while most Indigenous people had never been in jail, they faced more risk factors that made it more likely, including unemployment, low socioeconomic status and poor mental health.

To view the full article click here. A related article argues that waiting for solutions to youth incarceration is a choice by government to invest in hurting kids and making communities less safe in the meantime – to read this article in The Guardian click here.

silhouette of person in jail, sitting with head in hands

Image source: The Conversation website.

Beyond Blue supports healing and unity 

Beyond Blue supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and have said they will continue to play our part in supporting Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing by listening to First Nations people, advocating for culturally appropriate policies and services led by them, and encouraging action to address racism and Close the Gap. Beyond Blue says they want to see institutional and intergenerational disadvantage meaningfully addressed.

To view the full article, including a traditional Ngangkari healing story click here.

rear view of heads of two Aboriginal women, one looking sideways at the other, set against blurred background of green street foliage

Image source: Beyond Blue website.

Virtual care survey

What has been your organisation’s experience of virtual care?

With a view to producing a report based on the results, Telstra Health is conducting a survey to understand the different organisational experiences of virtual care, particularly since the pandemic. For example, perhaps you’ve recently increased the number and range of virtual care services provided but you don’t know what to do next to maintain them. No matter your organisation’s situation, the team at Telstra Health wants to hear from you! They will explore how to support Australian healthcare providers with delivering effective and efficient virtual care solutions.

Join the conversation and complete the short survey to help shape the future of virtual care.

Survey closes on Friday 12 February 2021. telstra logo, words Health, Take the Survey against background of fibre web and blank speech bubbles

Telehealth booming

Telehealth consultations with GPs are booming among urban and rural patients since the Government introduced temporary Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) support in March last year – and authors of a new report analysing GP visits at 800 practices across Australia argue the MBS changes should be permanent.

Professor Andrew Georgiou and his co-authors found that phone consultations with GPs in NSW and Victoria climbed from zero during 2019 to more than 138,000 per week between January and September 2020. Despite the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers found that people consulted GPs more often from January to September 2020, than they did in the same period in 2019. “We think much of that is because people could access telehealth,” said Georgiou, from Macquarie University’s Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research.

To view the full Croakey article click here.

female health professional & male health professional conducting telehealth consultation

Image source: PHN Murray website.

Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia

Since its establishment with funding from the Australian Government in 1999, the Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) has been committed to providing information on a broad range of health and other determinants across the lifespan. Located at Torrens University Australia since November 2015, PHIDU’s emphasis continues to be on the publication of small area statistics for monitoring inequality in health and wellbeing and supporting opportunities to improve population health outcomes.

Since 2008, PHIDU has offered free online access to a comprehensive range of current (and some historical) data at national, jurisdictional, regional and small area levels for Australia. Socioeconomic and geographical variations in health are highlighted in interactive atlases and graphs, and supported by data tables and metadata. This web-based source of data on health and its determinants is unique in Australia, and has been acknowledged internationally by agencies such as the World Health Organization. To access the Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia click here.

screenshot of male Aboriginal male population data from PHIDU Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia

Image source: Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia website.

Support for COVID-19 vaccine ads in language

The Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) in the East Pilbara region services thousands of Martu and Nyiyaparli people who will be among the early recipients of the vaccine when it rolls out in coming weeks. The WA Government, which is working with the Commonwealth on the rollout, said that vulnerable patient cohorts such as people in Aboriginal communities would receive the vaccine early after frontline workers in health care, quarantine facilities, and airports.

To view the article in full click here.

drone photo of the new PAMS clinic in Newman

The new PAMS clinic in Newman services thousands of mainly Martu and Nyiyaparli people. Image source: ABC News website.

VIC – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd

Rumbalara is one of the largest providers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health services in Victoria. Rumbalara currently have a number of vacancies within their Health & Wellbeing services area and their Justice & Community services area. Their Health & Wellbeing services provide community members with a full range of services to help address general health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor diet and nutritional health, eye health, ear health, contagious diseases, drug and alcohol related issues, mental health and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Rumbalara’s Justice & Community Services have two vacancies based at its Shepparton office.

Mooroopa
Health Promotion Coordinator x 1 FT
Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Aboriginal Health Worker x 1 FT
Nurse – Lead Chronic Care Coordinator x 1 FT

Shepparton
Aboriginal Family Violence Team Leader x 1 FT
Aboriginal Family Violence Practitioner x 1 FT

To view position descriptions for the jobs based in Mooroopna click here and for those in Shepparton click here.

Applications close Tuesday 9 February 2021.

National Condom Day – Sunday 14 February

The countdown has well and truly begun, with only 12 days until on National Condom Day and NACCHO is running a fun contest to drive awareness around safe sex and condoms.

Watch this video by Her Rules Her Game Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Services Council for some great inspiration, then unleash your creativity and submit a PHOTO/VIDEO showing your best condom hack and/or send us your BEST SLOGAN on using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Email your entries to nacchonews@naccho.org.au with the subject line “Condom hacks & slogans” by Wednesday 10 February 2021.

You can also upload your creations on your social media pages. Make sure to tag us so we can keep sharing your cool posts.

We have some AMAZING PRIZES from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sporting teams and businesses for the top entries:

  • a signed NRL Indigenous All Stars football. PRICELESS!
  • $200 gift card for Saretta Art & Design
  • $200 gift card for Yilay

    collage Indigenous Allstars football, Yilay Apparel Distributors 4 men's ties, each with a different Aboriginal dot painting design, Aboriginal hand with silver ring feeling texture of Aboriginal sand painting Saretta Art and Design

    Image sources L-R: Bulldogs website; Facebook pages for Yilay Apparel Distributor & Saretta Art & Design.

Come on! Let’s have some fun – but keep it tasteful.

This is an opportunity to share your creativity with your mob!

feature tile Australia's HIV response strengthened with Health Minister's 2020 World Health Day announcements

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Australia’s HIV response strengthened

feature tile Australia's HIV response strengthened with Health Minister's 2020 World Health Day announcements

Australia’s HIV response strengthened

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the number of HIV diagnoses has fluctuated over the past five years, but diagnosis rates are still between 1.3–1.9 times higher than in Australian-born, non-Indigenous Australians. Professor James Ward from the University of Queensland says “To reduce this unacceptable gap, there needs to be sustained investment in targeted, culturally appropriate, community focused campaigns.”

Today (1 December 2020), on World AIDS Day, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has warmly welcomed a number of announcements from the Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, including the intention to ensure every person living in Australia with HIV has access to life saving antiretroviral medicine, regardless of Medicare eligibility. “This is a critical public health measure,” said Darryl O’Donnell, chief executive of the AFAO, “For too long, too many people in Australia who aren’t eligible for Medicare struggled to afford the medicine needed to keep them healthy. This act of leadership will give access to antiretroviral medicine to everyone in Australia who needs it. This is more than a question of treatment, it is also a question of prevention, because a person with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV.”

Darryl O’Donnell continued, “Australia has always been a global leader in the HIV response and today with 90% of those living in Australia with HIV tested and diagnosed, 91% on treatment and 97% achieving an undetectable viral load, we can be proud of being among a small handful of nations to meet the UNAIDS 2020 global [90-90-90] goal for HIV treatment and prevention. This is an important milestone, however we can and should be more ambitious. We must double down. With renewed political and financial commitment we can achieve 95-95-95 [the ambitious strategy announced by UNAIDS in 2014, aiming to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 by achieving 95% diagnosed among all people living with HIV (PLHIV), 95% on antiretroviral therapy (ART) among diagnosed, and 95% virally suppressed (VS) among treated].”

AFAO has produced a number of resources you can view by clicking on the resource title below:

To listen to a recording of this morning’s 2020 World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast click here.

To view the AFAO media release click here.

image of Minister Payne, Minister Wong and Minister Hunt at podium on World AIDS Day

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt at the 2020 World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast. Image source: AFAO website.