Feature tile - Halls Creek 'Heart of Gold' town entry sign

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Halls Creek leaders recall day COVID-19 came to town

Feature tile - Halls Creek 'Heart of Gold' town entry sign

Halls Creek leaders recall day COVID-19 came to town

When coronavirus came to the small outback town of Halls Creek in WA it was “like a bomb went off”, according to Brenda Garstone, CEO of the Yura Yungi Aboriginal Medical Service. “We all had to run for cover,” she said. “We were scrambling. We didn’t know where to go, or what to do.” The WA Department of Health had warned that any community transmission in towns with remote communities would be devastating for the populations. When four healthcare workers at the local Halls Creek hospital returned positive tests, all at once, residents refused to attend the healthcare clinic for fear of picking up the virus, local shops emptied and Aboriginal men from the town’s night patrol went door to door, trying to communicate the seriousness of what was unfolding. While the outbreak was quickly contained, tensions in the small town have still not eased, with the community now fully aware of the threat COVID-19 poses.

To view the full article click here.

Halls Creek 'Heart of Gold' town entry sign

Image source: ABC News website.

Groundbreaking FASD diagnostic framework

Long wait times and centralised specialist doctors have left families in rural and remote areas waiting up to three years for a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). But now a group of doctors, academics and Indigenous elders have come together in north-west Queensland to create a unique diagnostic tier system for the disorder. Local Indigenous leaders and Mount Isa rural doctor Marjad Page, a Kalkadoon, Waanyi and Ganggalidda man, wrote a dreamtime story to explain not only the disorder but the medical process to local Indigenous families. “The program is run from the Aboriginal medical service here in Mount Isa called Gidgee Healing, so it’s run out of a culturally appropriate medical service for the region,” Dr Page said.

To read the full article click here.

Gidgee Healing Dr Marjad Page portrait photo & Gidgee Healing logo

Dr Marjad Page. Image source: ABC News – ABC North West Queensland.

Six steps to stopping germs video launch

Australia is the only developed country still with high levels of trachoma and almost all cases occur in  remote Aboriginal communities. The Ending Trachoma project, which is run out of the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA at Curtin University, aims to reduce the incidence of trachoma and skin infections in ‘trachoma at risk’ Aboriginal communities in remote WA through implementing environmental health strategies. They have developed a short video (see below) showing the importance of personal hygiene using ‘Milpa’s Six Steps to Stop Germs’ message. The video features women from the Nollamarra Football Team together with their children. It was developed by the Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne, with extensive input from Aboriginal community members and services in WA, SA and the NT. The message aims to encourage everyone, particularly kids, to stay healthy and strong and eliminate trachoma and other infectious diseases through following six steps.

For more information about the project click here.

COVID-19 offers unexpected opportunity to quit smoking

Smokers are worried. A respiratory disease is running rampant across the globe and people with unhealthy lifestyle habits appear to be especially vulnerable. Smokers hospitalised with COVID-19 are more likely to become severely unwell and die than non-smokers with the disease. At any point in time, most smokers want to quit. But COVID-19 provides the impetus to do it sooner rather than later. A recent study has found the proportion intending to quit within the next two weeks almost tripled from around 10% of smokers before COVID-19 to almost 30% in April. This heightened interest in quitting in the face of COVID-19 represents a unique opportunity for governments and health agencies to help smokers quit, and stay off smoking for good.

To view the full article in The Conversation click here.

two hands breaking cigarette in half

Image source: The Conversation.

Adolescent “never smoked” rate rises

Using data from the Australian Secondary School Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey, a Prevention Centre PhD project led by Christina Heris found that the proportion Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents who have never smoked rose from 49% in 2005 to 70% in 2017. Additionally, rates of low smoking intensity increased by 10% from 67% in 2005 to 77 % in 2017 meaning that, overall, the number of cigarettes smoked in a day has decreased amongst smokers in the 12–17 age group.

Prevention Centre investigator Professor Sandra Eades, a Noongar woman, who supervised Christina’s project said “It’s fantastic to see that tobacco control is working for all students, including driving down rates among Aboriginal young people. But we know that young Aboriginal people experience more of the risk factors for smoking such as stress, racism and disadvantage. There is a need for governments to address these broader determinants.”

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal child holding & looking atan unlit cigarette

Image source: Deadly Vibe.

Original articles sought for inaugural HealthBulletin

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet is welcoming submissions from researchers, practitioners and health workers of original articles (not published elsewhere) for inclusion in their inaugural edition of the next generation of the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin. They are seeking submissions that provide examples of research on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including policies, strategies and programs that have the potential to inform and support everyday practice.

For further information about how to submit papers click here.

Australian Indigenous HealthInforNet HealthBulletin Call for papers banner

Image source: Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website.

National COVID-19 healthcare worker guidelines

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a higher prevalence of respiratory conditions, many of which share symptoms with COVID-19. Healthcare workers examining a patient with respiratory symptoms are at risk of spreading infection between patients with the highest risk of transmission likely during throat and nose examination including when a swab is being collected.

Griffith University researchers have helped develop national guidelines to minimise healthcare workers’ risk of acquiring and spreading infection while examining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with respiratory symptoms. “These new guidelines aim to provide resources and support healthcare teams in prevention and management of COVID-19,’’ said Associate Professor Jing Sun from the School of Medicine who led the project.

For more information about the new national guidelines click here.

health professional in PPE removing swab from text tube

Image source: Flinders University website.

PPE innovation needed in remote health services

Clinicians, service providers and researchers have issued an urgent call for an Australian innovation in personal protective equipment (PPE) –  the ventilated hood – to be made available to remote health services, saying that without the hoods, the risk of coronavirus transmission within remote healthcare services and communities is grave.

To read the full article click here.

woman in hospitals bed under COVID-19 hood

Image source: Sydney Morning Herald.

JT Academy offers free employment advertising

Lendlease and JT Academy are encouraging all local employers to utilise the JT Academy FREE employment functions and resources. All you need to do is send the details of any job vacancies you have and let them help you find the best candidates – they will advertise your vacancy on their fully functioning job board for free!

This unique collaborative employment initiative, directed by Managing Director, Johnathan Thurston is fast becoming one the most ambitious employment initiatives Far North Queensland has ever seen. It harnesses the unique strengths of both Lendlease and JT Academy, who together are striving to provide direct job opportunities for local jobseekers.

For more information visit the JT Academy website here.

Jonathan Thurston in suit smiling, Job Board advertisement

Image source: Twitter #jtacademy.

Funding still required for rehab services

Weigelli Centre Aboriginal Corporation Inc Chairperson Ray Harris and CEO Daniel Jeffries have doubled down on the need for more funding to be made available for rehab services, saying revenue streams remained of concern with no additional recurrent funding available for rehab services. The Weigelli Centre and other services across the sector need additional funding to address the increasing need for drug and alcohol treatment services. The continuing challenges remain for services to provide support and assistance to Aboriginal individuals, families and their communities.

To read the full article in the Cowra Guardian click here.

Weigelli Centre Aboriginal Corporation metal sign

Image source: Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW website.

CHF Big Ideas Competition

Do you have an idea which is going to change the way healthcare is delivered?

What about an idea which will transform how the health system works?

Consumers Health Forum (CHF) of Australia is invites you to send in videos of your ideas for innovation in health, to be part of the Big Ideas Forum at their Australian and NZ Shifting Gears Summit in March 2021. Your big idea could be something totally new, or it might be an example of something that has worked well in your community that could be expanded or tried in other places. You may like to base your idea on one or more of the key shifts highlighted in CHF’s 2018 White Paper Shifting Gears: Consumers Transforming Health. To view the White Paper click here.

For more information about the CHF Big Ideas Competition click here and for details about the CHF Summit 2021 click here.

4 people, each holding speech bubbles: Big Idea, Brain Storm, Think Different, Be Creative

Image source: Consumers Health Forum of Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Sector has got pandemic ‘by the horns’

Dr Mark Wenitong standing new tropical foliage in Apunipima Cape York Health Council shirt

Our Sector has got the pandemic ‘by the horns’

Enlisting local initiatives, networks and the lessons of the past, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services were quick off the mark when coronavirus came. Their success to date is a powerful testimony to the importance of Indigenous leadership in narrowing the health gap, experts say.

“We have the basic infrastructure, and probably one of the best primary healthcare models in the world, some of the best public health experts in the world,” says Dr Mark Wenitong, a longtime health officer on Cape York. “The ‘vulnerability’ of our remote communities is much more related to longstanding under-investment in health infrastructure than our people as individuals. Don’t discount us as major players in the Australian health system.”

To view the full article in The Citizen click here.

external image of the Victorian Aboriignal Health Service in Fitzroy

The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Fitzroy. Image source: The Citizen.

Durri ACMS rebuild getting back on track

The $5.6 million rebuild of the Durri Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service (ACMS) in Kempsey is getting back on track after progress was delayed by nine months due to staffing issues. The work is expected to start in February 2021 with a temporary medical centre to be set up at Kempsey District Hospital. The rebuild will feature modern facilities focused on key Indigenous health needs, including neonatal, chronic illness and mental health care.

To view the ABC News article relating to the rebuild click here.

DRA Architects sketch of new Durri medical centre

Image source: ABC News.

$25 million for safe use of medicines

The federal government has announced a $25 million investment in a Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) for research to improve the safe use of medicines and medicines intervention by pharmacists.

“The new Quality, Safety and Effectiveness of Medicine Use and Medicine Intervention by Pharmacists MRFF Grant Opportunity will support the Quality Use of Medicine and Medicine Safety National Health Priority, and is part of the Government’s significant ongoing investments aimed at improving access to medicines and the safe use of medicines in the community. On World Pharmacists Day, our Government acknowledges the outstanding work of Australia’s pharmacists and pharmacy staff in communities across the nation.”

To read the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt’s media release click here.

range of different coloured pills and tablets

Image source: The Guardian.

TGA rules prescription required for e-cigarettes

Young Australians will be protected by the interim decision of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure that e-cigarettes and vaping fluids containing nicotine are only available on prescription, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today. “The TGA has recognised the significant risks that come with using e-cigarettes, and the lack of evidence for their role as a quit smoking aid,” Dr Khorshid said.

To view the AMA media release click here

person vaping

Image source: Curtin University news and events.

Funding to protect Victorian mental health and AOD services

The Victorian Government has announced an additional $21 million in funding to ensure mental health and alcohol and other drugs services, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations have increased COVID-19 safe protections in place.

To view the media release click here.

industrial site person sitting head on knees with beer bottle by side

Image source: Alcohol Rehab Guide.

Funding for Victorian Aboriginal Family Violence sector

The Victorian Government is boosting Aboriginal-led family violence prevention and responses so that more Aboriginal Victorians can access culturally sensitive support when and where they need it. $18.2 million will be made available to Aboriginal organisations and community groups through the Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund to provide culturally appropriate responses for both victim survivors and those using or at risk of using violence in the home, including emergency support, family counselling and behaviour change support. Organisations and community groups will be granted funding over two years, giving them more certainty in planning how they deliver family violence services that are tailored to the needs of their communities.

To view the media release click here.

person holding palm to camera with word ENOUGH written on palm of hand

Image source: NITV website.

Extra $13 million for community nursing

The Commonwealth government has allocated an additional $13 million for community nursing to provide remote health professional accessibility to instruction, services and mental health care. An additional $8 million will be supplied to assist employment opportunities for nurses in primary healthcare.

For more information on the $13 million funding click here.

Inala Indigenous Health Service staff attending to patient

Image source: Queensland Health.

ACCHO gambling research webinar

Mallee District Aboriginal Services and Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Services, in collaboration with La Trobe University have conducted two exploratory studies on gambling. 50 Aboriginal people in regional Victoria were interviewed to identify benefits and harms associated with gambling and what community members thought should be done in response. Using social practice theory, findings of the research will be presented and some of the interventions recommended by research participants will be outlined in a free webinar to be presented by Darlene Thomas, Mallee District Aboriginal Services and Sarah MacLean, La Trobe University on Wednesday 20 September from 12.30–1.30 pm.

To register for the webinar click here.Aboriginal woman with hand across shoulder of Aboriginal woman looking sad

National youth survey report released

Mission Australia has released its National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Report: Youth Survey 2019. This report draws on the findings of its Youth Survey 2019 and highlights the views, concerns, experiences and aspirations of 25,126 young people, 1,578 of whom identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. In response to the findings, the report also provides a range of recommendations.

For more information, please read the media release, report and infographic.

Aboriginal man & Aboriginal child looking at laptop

Image source: Mission Australia website.

QLD – Cairns – Wuchopperen Health Service Ltd

FT Deputy Chief Executive Officer 

An exciting opportunity is available for the position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service based in Cairns.

This full-time, permanent position is responsible for the strategic leadership, direction, management and coordination of the portfolio of Deputy Chief Executive Officer, including the areas of Health Services and Service Integration.

To view the position statement click here.  Applications close 5.00 pm Monday 5 October 2020.

VIC – Shepparton – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd.

FT Woongi Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program Manager x 1

The Woongi SEWB Program Manager is responsible for managing and delivering on the key objectives of the Woongi service.

The successful applicant will provide leadership and utilise effective work practices that enhance the operation, planning and delivery of culturally appropriate, community based, Alcohol & Other Drugs (AOD) and Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB), Bringing Them Home Re-connections and Traditional Healing Services including early intervention and prevention.

FT Woongi Social and Emotional Wellbeing Group Programs Coordinator x 1

The SEWB Group Programs Coordinator is responsible for coordinating the delivery of a structured program of evidence informed SEWB groups (cultural, healing, recovery and rehabilitation) for clients, families and the broader community, impacted by AOD misuse and/or mental health.

To view the position descriptions for the above vacancies click here. Applications close at 4.00 pm on Friday, 9 October 2020.external view of Rumbalara logo emu against a clinic & Rumbalara logo - emu against curve of black, yellow & red curves

National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs (NCCRED) virtual symposium

Innovations in therapeutic practice for methamphetamine use disorder

The 2020 symposium will focus on innovations in therapeutic practice for methamphetamine disorder. The symposium brings together leading national researchers, including presentations from recipients of NCCRED’s Round 2 Seed Funding Program. Recipients will share the most up-to-date aspects of their work and research around methamphetamine and emerging drug use.

11am Friday 20 November 2020

For more details regarding the symposium click here.

crystal methamphetamine

Image source: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

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

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

Healthcare worker PPE too little too late

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

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Updated RACS Indigenous Health position paper

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

To review the position paper click here.

two medical staff in scrubs in theatre

Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Framework to guide health professional practice

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

To view the research article click here.

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

Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Self-harm spike across Kimberley

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

To view the full ABC News article click here.

image of multiple white crosses marking graves in red dusty country

Image source: ABC News.

Indigenous LGBQTI+SB suicide prevention introduction

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

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

SNAICC COVID-19 resources for children

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

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

young Aboriginal boy

Image source: Health Times.

2020 smoking in pregnancy roudtable summary

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

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

belly of pregnant Aboriginal women breaking a cigarette in half

Image source: Coffs Coast Advocate.

Canberra – ACT

ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women – Council Member

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

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

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

For further information click here.

silhouette of 10 women holding hands at sunset

Image source: ANU website.

National Stroke Week – 31 August – 6 September 2020

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

Image source: Stroke Foundation website.

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

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Additional $33 Million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care

Additional $33 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health

The Hon. Ken Wyatt MP
Minister for Indigenous Australians

The Hon. Warren Entsch MP
Federal Member for Leichhardt

The Morrison Government will provide an additional $33 million to strengthen primary health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The funding, to be provided over three years, will help to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access culturally appropriate primary health care, when and where they need it.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and other eligible providers will be able to apply for grants, to improve health outcomes in the communities who need it most.

As well as delivering better, more effective health care, the grants will empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to better manage their own health.

Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said the Morrison Government is providing this funding to ensure a further step towards closing the gap on health, especially by reducing preventable disease and hospitalisation.

Key stakeholders, including the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Australian Medical Association, were closely involved in developing the revised funding model.

To read the full media release click here.

Significant drop in incarceration rates possible

Incarceration rates can be reduced significantly and quickly if backed by government, and this can be achieved without compromising community health.

Higher targets to reduce the over-representation of First Nations People in Australia’s criminal justice system could be achieved more quickly and safely based on new data, the New South Wales Bar Association said today.

To read the media release click here.

Johnathan Thurston launches Cairns youth program

The JTConnect program, sponsored by the Deadly Choices Indigenous health campain, is being launched by the Johnathan Thurston Academy today. The program is aimed at improving young people’s confidence, courage and self-belief and inspiring Australia’s next generation to pursue the employment and career options which spark their interest. The program will be offered free to schools and open to students aged 15 years and over.

To read more about the JTConnect program click here.

Photo of Johnathan Thurston & JTConnect resource materials.

Image source: Johnathan Thurston Academy website.

 

NSW – Newcastle

FT Project Manager x 1

The University of Newcastle has a vacancy for a Project Manager to guide the development of a campaign to increase smoking cessation rates among expectant Indigenous mothers.

For further information about this position click here.

Photo Pregnant Aboriginal Woman smoking, University of Newcastle Logo & University of Newcastle exterior

Image sources: Medical Xpress, Lyons Architecture.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Tackling Indigenous #Smoking Resources Alert : Download the Review of tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

“This research shows reducing tobacco use is achievable with a suite of approaches.

We have been able to look at data up to 2014 where we’re able to estimate around 30,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives have been saved, just due to the decline in smoking rates.

For a long time we just had the general approach in Australia and everybody thought that would be enough, but what we’re seeing now is when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are leading the charge around these public health issues, then we start to see those benefits.

ANU associate professor Ray Lovett said it’s a big shift compared to the ten years before 2004, when there was no change in smoking rates in the indigenous. Speaking to NITV 

Download the 62 page report  HERE

AOD-Review-of-tobacco_Interactive-WEB_FINAL

See report online at HealthinfoNet

Read over 140 Aboriginal Health and Smoking articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

For the first time, smoking among Indigenous Australians is declining at a faster rate than the general population, according to a new study by the Australian National University.

The review found that between 2004 and 2019, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who smoked cigarettes fell from 50 per cent to 40.2 per cent.

The review found smoking had decreased the most among pregnant women and younger people.

Dr Lovett said the drop was partly a result of more targeted Indigenous-led health campaigns and support services in local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Aboriginal Quitline Counsellor and Partnerships Officer at Quit Victoria Glen Benton said colonial-era practices involving tobacco still impacted Aboriginal people today.

“We were paid in tobacco, alcohol, sugar, wheat and opium and if you look at those substances, they’re all products that we’ve had issues with as a culture,” he said.

“It’s been something that we’ve had bartered to us for work, so there’s a very confusing and complex history that needs pacing and respect paid to it.”

Mr Benton said telling stories could help drive positive change within Indigenous communities.

He has launched a new podcast called Quit Stories to encourage conversations about the health risks of smoking and benefits of quitting.

“The podcast is an example that people can listen to hear what they might expect if they contact the Aboriginal Quitline because everybody’s got their story,” he said.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the key facts

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

Key facts

Population

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

Births and pregnancy outcomes

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

Mortality

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

Hospitalisation

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

Selected health conditions

Cardiovascular health

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

Cancer

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

Diabetes

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

Social and emotional wellbeing

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

Kidney health

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

Injury, including family violence

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

Respiratory health

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

Eye health

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

Ear health and hearing

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

Oral health

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

Disability

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

Communicable diseases

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

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus and #WorldNoTobaccoDay News Alert No 75 : May 31 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob @NACCHOChair press release : ” There is light at the end of the tunnel, not at the end of a cigarette ” Plus @TISprogramme What is the link between #smoking and #COVID19 ?

“There is no better time to think about how smoking affects your health, your loved ones and your financial position during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Smoking can mean you are more susceptible to developing lung disease. I want to remind everyone that there is light at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel, not at the end of a cigarette.

Chronic diseases such as respiratory diseases (including asthma), heart and circulatory diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney diseases and some cancers are more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and tend to occur at younger ages, than among other Australians.

I would like to remind everyone especially during these times of COVID-19, stop sharing cigarettes with others or smoking used cigarette butts. Every step counts to ensuring the wellbeing of yourself and those close to you.”

Donnella Mills Chair of NACCHO

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is spreading the message to all Australians that ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel, not at the end of a cigarette’ on World No Tobacco Day.

For this year’s World No Tobacco Day, NACCHO’s message is particularly timely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read download this full press release HERE

” People who smoke have a higher risk of catching respiratory infections like colds and flu than non-smokers.

They are also more likely to experience complications that lead to more severe illness such as pneumonia.

Because (coronavirus) COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, we expect smokers to be more susceptible.

As COVID-19 is caused by a new virus, we are still learning about its effects on the body, what factors might increase the risk of infection, and who might experience more severe symptoms. Here we summarise what we know from the emerging evidence specifically in relation to smoking as a risk factor

See part 3 below

Download NACCHO COVID-19 Resources HERE

Part 2

 

“Being more stressed or depressed could be seen as a reason to advise a smoker to quit rather than to put it off.

This is very important in these stressful times, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience more stressful events.

Quitting smoking is always a good first step in improving your health and can increase your confidence to take on bigger problems.

Study leader, Menzies’ Professor David Thomas says health staff can emphasise the research evidence of the benefits to stress management, mental health and well-being that come with successfully quitting smoking.

The study was conducted in partnership with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, its affiliates, 34 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Torres Shire Council. Download Press Release with access to study

Stress may not be a major long-term obstacle to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people quitting smoking, as previously believed, according to new research released by Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) today.

The study found that more smokers who reported being stressed at baseline made quit attempts and stayed quit for longer in the next year, contrary to past research that mainly reported smokers’ perceptions that stress caused them to go back to smoking. 

Forming part of the national Talking About The Smokes study led by Menzies in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, the 759 study participants completed baseline surveys and follow-up surveys a year later.

Many health professionals and smokers believe that smoking relieves stress. But this relief may be merely because smoking a cigarette relieves the recurring symptoms of nicotine withdrawal caused by the time elapsed since their previous cigarette.

Download full press release

200528 Menzies Media Release – Stress not stopping Aboriginal smokers quitting

Are people who smoke at higher risk of COVID-19 infection?

It is not certain that smokers are more likely to be infected with COVID-19. At the moment the evidence is mixed on whether or not smokers have an increased risk of infection. This may be for several reasons:

  • The evidence we have at the moment is mostly based on hospital admissions, so only really tells us about those people who seek help for their symptoms. Smokers might not recognise mild symptoms, such as increased cough. A large population study in the UK supports this possibility.
  • The study (which is ongoing) uses a smartphone app where people record their health, including any symptoms like coughing, sneezing or fever. Data from 1.5 million users showed smokers were more likely to experience symptoms associated with COVID-19 than non-smokers. At the moment we don’t know if those smokers with symptoms went on to be confirmed cases of COVID-19, but this information may become available as the project continues.
  • Information about smoking in these studies is usually based on self-report. It might be that people are not reporting their smoking status because they want to be seen to be doing the right thing.
  • There is evidence people are quitting because of COVID-19. These people might be classed as former smokers, however if they only quit recently, perhaps they remained at risk of infection.
  • It is possible that because smokers are aware of their increased risk to lung and chest infections, they are being ultra-cautious to avoid catching COVID-19.

What we do know is that the behaviours that smokers engage in put them at greater risk of infection. This includes:

  • frequent hand to mouth action when smoking;
  • sharing cigarettes;
  • collecting and smoking discarded butts;
  • limited physical distancing in designated smoking areas.

 Are people who smoke more likely to have severe complications if they do get COVID-19?

Smokers are likely to be more severely impacted by COVID-19 because smoking:

  • damages your lungs, so they simply don’t work as well;
  • weakens your immune system. This means the body has more trouble fighting the COVID-19 infection;
  • increases the risk of getting a secondary infection such as pneumonia. Lungs naturally produce mucus, but people who smoke have more and thicker mucus that is hard to clean out of the lungs. This mucus clogs the lungs and is prone to becoming infected with bacteria.

The most recent evidence shows that if smokers get COVID-19 and are admitted to hospital then they are more likely to have severe symptoms and die than former or non-smokers. A study published in May 2020 combined hospital data from Asia, Europe and North America. The researchers found that active smokers were almost twice as likely to die than former or never smokers.

What about former smokers, or people who recently quit – are they still at more risk of COVID-19?

We don’t known if people who have quit smoking have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 or are more likely to get severe disease compared to people who have never smoked. What we do know is that:

  • People who have been quit for a while and have normal lung function are less prone to respiratory infection than active smokers, so this is probably true for CVID-19 as well.
  • It is also likely you’ll have a lower risk of severe complications if you become infected than if you were still smoking.

We don’t know how long you need to be smoke free to reduce any potential risk,  but we do know that stopping smoking improves lung health within a few weeks. Risk of lung infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia also decrease in about 4-6 weeks after quitting. This is particularly important as Australia heads into flu season. Being smoke free improves your health and reduces your risk of getting respiratory viruses.  And it improves your ability to fight off any illness.

Is it still safe to start, or continue to use, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and other stop smoking medications?

For people who smoke, stop smoking medications or NRT (can help to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. Combined with tailored support (for example from Quitline or your local Aboriginal Medical Service), these medications give people the best chance of successfully quitting. There is no evidence or reason to believe that COVID-19 has an impact on the safety and effectiveness of these medications.

  • Anyone already using these medications can be reassured that it is safe to continue.
  • Anyone thinking about starting these medications, should be see a qualified practitioner as usual.

There is also no evidence that stop smoking medications change the risk of contracting the virus. They are also unlikely to increase or reduce symptom severity. You may have read media stories suggesting nicotine could protect against COVID-19. This is not true. This is not a reason for anyone to smoke, smoking carries many risks to our health and wellbeing. It is also not sensible for non-smokers to start using NRT as it will not protect them from COVID-19. Hand hygiene and physical distancing are much more effective ways to stay safe.

How can you tell the difference between nicotine withdrawal symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms?

People who have recently stopped smoking may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms are usually temporary and disappear after about 2 to 4 weeks.

Quitters might also experience a cough and sore throat. These withdrawal symptoms may be confused with some of the symptoms of COVID-19. However they are usually temporary and not accompanied by other COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever. Fever is not a symptom of nicotine withdrawal.

Anyone concerned about COVID-19 should visit www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details, call the National COVID-19 Helpline on 1800 020 080, or speak to their doctor or AMS.

What are the risks of e-cigarettes and COVID-19?

As with traditional tobacco products, the evidence around COVID-19 and e-cigarette use (or “vaping”) is still emerging. However the evidence does show a higher number of severe respiratory infections in people who use e-cigarettes, so the risks may well be similar for vapers as they are for smokers. This is because using e-cigarettes has some similar effects to tobacco smoking on your body, including:

  • increased inflammation in the lung;
  • increased coughing and wheezing, probably indicating lung damage;
  • lowered immunity and ability to fight off infection.

Vapers also engage in some of the behaviours that increase risk for smokers (such as frequent hand to mouth action). Vapers should follow good hygiene rules, washing their hands before and after vaping. It is also important not share devices with another person. Vapers should be reminded not to use e-cigarettes near others or in an enclosed space because the aerosol (vapor) produced might carry the virus if the vaper is infected. If someone touches a surface on which aerosol might have settled, they should wash their hands immediately with soap and water.

Is this a good time to quit?

It is always a good time to stop smoking. For some people, concerns about COVID-19 can act as a motivator to quit. Evidence from the UK and the USA supports this:

  • In a UK survey of over 1,000 people, 2% said they had quit because of fears around COVID-19.
  • In addition, a quarter of former smokers in the survey said they were less likely to resume smoking.
  • In the USA survey of smokers, 20% of respondents had made a quit attempt because of COVID19.

Anyone who wants to quit should be encouraged to quit. As described, NRT and other stop smoking medicines are still safe to use.

However it is also important to recognise that for some people this will not be a good time to quit. Additional stress from being in lockdown, or being out of work can be a trigger to smoking. In a UK survey, 4% of former smokers reported that the pandemic had made them more likely to relapse. In a USA survey, 30% of smokers said they were smoking more. For people continuing to smoke, advice around harm reduction for themselves and others is important. Smokers should be reminded to:

  • pay extra attention to the existing hygiene advice: wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, particularly before and after smoking, cough into your elbow, try to avoid touching your face, and maintain a physical distance from others;
  • do not share cigarettes or roll a cigarette for someone else;
  • smoke outside, not in the house, to reduce the impact of second hand smoke.

Smokers should also be reminded to get a flu shot, because they are at increased risk of becoming infected with the influenza virus. As we head into flu season with COVID-19 also around, the risk of catching a respiratory illness is higher than usual.

In summary

Smoking might put you at greater risk for contracting  COVID19, but we don’t know for sure. Emerging evidence suggests smokers are more likely to have severe illness if they are infected. We should encourage smokers to:

  • stay safe by following hygiene and physical distancing rules, not sharing cigarettes or vaping devices;
  • protect others from second and third hand smoke by maintaining a smoke free home;
  • quit if they can.

The dangers of smoking and exposure to second hand smoke have not changed. Stopping smoking has many health benefits beyond a link with COVID-19, and it saves a lot of money. It is always a good time to quit. As we head into flu season, quitting has never been more important – quit for life, not just for COVID-19.

Resources
You can find more information about COVID-19 on HealthInfoNethttps://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/health-topics/infectious-conditions/covid-19-updates-and-information/
HealthDirect

Australian Government of Health

National COVID-19 Helpline: 1800 020 080

Quitline 13 78 48 -this includes access to Aboriginal Quitline counsellors – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members who are trained to support our community in quitting.

With thanks to Cancer Council’s Tobacco Issues Committee and Quit Victoria for their contribution to this article.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s Health and #Smoking #IDM2020 #Midwives2020 News Alert : Dr @michelle_bovill : What ngidhi yinaaru nhal yayi (this woman told me) about smoking during pregnancy changes the conversation about this national priority.

 ” Let me make it clear right from the start. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are quitting smoking during pregnancy and care deeply about the health and wellbeing of their babies.

While there has been an acknowledgement that the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women smoking during pregnancy has declined, reports more frequently measure and monitor smoking rates during pregnancy and compare these to non‐Aboriginal pregnant women.

For example, 43% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers reported smoking during pregnancy compared with 12% of non‐Aboriginal Australians.

I have been privileged to hear Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from Worimi, Awabakal, Biripi, Goomeroi/Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay and Boandik communities share their stories with me about smoking and becoming pregnant.

I acknowledge my responsibility to pass on these stories to inform the conversations about smoking during pregnancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

What ngidhi yinaaru nhal yayi (this woman told me) about smoking during pregnancy changes the conversation about this national priority.

What is now owed to these women is more action. Action by health professionals to advise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to quit smoking during pregnancy, and action to find meaningful support strategies to achieve abstinence. “

Selected extracts from

Michelle Bovill as published in MJA Journal

Download the publication HERE

mja250523

However, two things happen when we measure and monitor in this way. First, this approach assumes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are homogenous.

We are not; we are extremely diverse in cultures, customs and experiences. Second, it creates the impression that smoking during pregnancy is the issue and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women present a deficit.

This is detrimental because our lived experiences are not the same, nor have they been for generations. Colonisation, dispossession onto missions and reserves, the removal of children, unpaid labour, and refusal of the equal right to education, employment and health care over generations has led to a gap in social and cultural determinants of health.

This gap is founded on racist policies that positioned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as inferior to other Australians. The gap and deficit mentality follow us today and can be found in countless government reports on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage.

When we don’t contextualise in terms of colonisation and the resulting social and cultural determinants of health, and fail to privilege Indigenous knowledges, we cannot truthfully address any area of health inequity.

While it has been identified that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience multiple barriers to quitting smoking during pregnancy, little work has been conducted to ask Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers about their experiences of quitting and what they believe could support them to become smoke‐free during pregnancy.

Quit attempts are being made “A lot of people are more wanting to give up smoking but not having the information”

Across New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women often shared a desire to quit smoking and reported making several quit attempts during pregnancy. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in general are more likely than other Australians to make a quit attempt but are less likely to succeed, which raises the question, “what is happening when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make a quit attempt?”.

Stories of quit attempts lasting at least 24 hours but often less than a full week were often shared. If we listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, we can hear that motivation to quit is high.

The problem with reduction “I think doctors need to stop telling people to cut down”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across communities yarra (say) reduction in cigarette consumption was suggested by health providers.

This tendency to advise reduction in tobacco consumption rather than recommending to women that they quit completely has been previously reported.

 Advising women to cut down cigarette consumption during pregnancy when they are unable to quit smoking is still being promoted across the country in clinical practice guidelines.

 If we only ever report quit rates, yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are only being advised to reduce, how will we ever achieve the lower smoking rates of the non‐Aboriginal population?

“I was doing 10 to 15 cigarettes down to 1 to 2 cigarettes a day. I think that is a big, a big reduce”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are proud of their success in reducing cigarette consumption. Why shouldn’t they be? Women are successfully following the advice of their health providers.

The only randomised controlled trial conducted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women during pregnancy reported that 70% of women who were advised to quit smoking by their health provider made a quit attempt.

A recent survey of Aboriginal women who smoke revealed positive attitudes to advice and support from doctors (61%) and midwives (62%). However, health provider support for planned smoking cessation is reported to be weak.

Pregnancy is a life stage during which there are multiple opportunities to offer cessation support to mothers.

Each opportunity should repeat the unambiguous message that the best thing for mothers’ and babies’ health is to quit smoking completely, explain that they are not alone, and offer cessation support.

We therefore hit a dilemma: what cessation support should even be offered? Systematic reviews on Aboriginal tobacco control have concluded that there is limited evidence of effective programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in general as well as during pregnancy.

Community led initiatives are key to successful outcomes

“Everybody looks up to their Elders and stuff, as you know, maybe just a yarn or a get‐together to discuss smoking could help”

Aboriginal women in NSW yarra (speak) of their desire to receive support from their community and Elders. Elders understand community dynamics and the context of women’s lives in a way that (non‐Aboriginal) health providers cannot

. But what would this look like in a health care setting? How can we ensure that consistent messages are offered throughout community to support being smoke‐free?

“I was just thinking that these products, I wouldn’t use them. I’d think about the side effects”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women yarra (speak) of their desire to use non‐pharmacological and stress management approaches for smoking cessation. The use of alternative approaches (such as yoga and mindfulness) has been reported in white populations with high socio‐economic status; however, the effectiveness of some of these approaches is as yet uncertain.,

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health does not focus on the individual, but rather the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential.

It is therefore important that any support program to address health inequities also focuses on community engagement and empowerment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women want control and ownership of the quitting process and should be empowered to quit smoking.

If we truly want to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to quit smoking during pregnancy, we need to privilege their voices in the process of developing effective and meaningful supports.

I have been privileged to hear Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from Worimi, Awabakal, Biripi, Goomeroi/Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay and Boandik communities share their stories with me about smoking and becoming pregnant.

I acknowledge my responsibility to pass on these stories to inform the conversations about smoking during pregnancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

What ngidhi yinaaru nhal yayi (this woman told me) about smoking during pregnancy changes the conversation about this national priority.

What is now owed to these women is more action. Action by health professionals to advise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to quit smoking during pregnancy, and action to find meaningful support strategies to achieve abstinence.

Developing appropriate support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should draw on traditional and contemporary knowledges, values and practices.

Over the next 4 years, with the support of a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship and a National Heart Foundation Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award, I will commence this exploratory work in partnership with NSW Aboriginal communities through the Which Way? project.

This project will partner with four communities to explore what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women desire to support smoking cessation and develop an Indigenous led evidence base on smoking cessation.

This work will build on the request for non‐pharmacological support and align with a holistic definition of health and wellbeing. It is my belief that by developing, implementing and evaluating a support strategy that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women desire, our communities can achieve smoking abstinence.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #AODConnect Resources Alert : Download an app to improve access to #alcohol and other #drugs AOD service information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

The AODconnect app has been developed by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre to help alcohol and other drug (AOD) workers, community members and health professionals working in the AOD sector to locate culturally appropriate services.

The app aims to support efforts to reduce harmful substance use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Read over 200 Aboriginal Health Alcohol and other Drugs articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are increasingly using online platforms to share and access information about different health topics.

The ownership and use of mobile phones in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is widespread and increasing, making apps a viable way to provide people living in these regions with access to health information.

AODconnect provides an Australia-wide directory of over 270 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander AOD treatment services.

It delivers a portable way to easily access information about service providers such as contact details and program descriptions, helping to facilitate initial contact and referral.

App

Once the app has been downloaded, users can search for AOD services even when their internet connection is unstable or not available.

This is especially useful in rural and remote areas of Australia where the Internet coverage is not always extensive or reliable.

The app enables users to search for services by state, territory, region and postcode via either an interactive map of Australia or by alphabetical listing.

Services can be filtered by the type of treatment they provide: counselling and referral, harm reduction and support groups, outreach, mobile patrols and sobering up shelters, residential rehab, withdrawal management and young people.

The services listed on the app are also available through the Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre website.

The app is free to download on both iOS and Android devices.

If you would like to have your service added to the app or would like more information about the AODconnect app, please contact the Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre email: aodknowledgecentre@healthinfonet.org.au or Ph: (08) 9370 6336.

Alcohol and other drugs GP education program


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Smoking : Download the @RACGP Supporting #smokingcessation Guide : Smoking daily is three times as high in the lowest socioeconomic areas of Australia compared to the highest.

“The likelihood of smoking daily is three times as high in the lowest socioeconomic areas of Australia compared to the highest.

What this means is that smoking-related health problems disproportionately affect those least able to afford the medicines that are essential to helping them quit.

We have made massive inroads, now it’s time for the final, decisive push to reduce daily smoking levels.

These medicines work, we just need to do more to help get them into the hands of people who need them most and removing restrictions on prescribing will do just that.”

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that the Government should act to assist those who struggle to afford the medicines that are proven to help people quit smoking.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 ” Indigenous Australians are still more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be current daily smokers.2 However, there has been a progressive decrease in daily smoking rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, declining from 49% in 2002 to 45% in 2008, and then to 41% in 2012–13.3

People who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander qualify for PBS authority listing that provides up to two courses per year of nicotine patches, each of a maximum of 12 weeks. Under this listing, participation in a support and counselling program is recommended but not mandatory. Access t nicotine patches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be facilitated through the Closing the Gap PBS co-payment measure (see page 45).”

Extracts from GUIDE

Download the RACGP Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals (2nd edition) smoking-cessation

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Smoking articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

Read Aboriginal Health and our partnership with RACGP articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has today recommended allowing greater flexibility in prescribing for smoking cessation pharmacotherapy.

The bold proposal, contained in the RACGP’s newly released Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals (2nd edition) (“the guide”), could prove a game-changer for reducing smoking rates.

Pharmacotherapy options available in Australia include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT, e.g. a transdermal patch or acute forms such as an oral spray, gum, inhaler or lozenge), varenicline (a drug that blocks the pleasure and reward response to smoking) and bupropion hydrochloride (which reduces the urge to smoke and helps with nicotine withdrawal).

Oral forms of NRT subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) are gum and lozenges for use as the sole PBS-subsidised therapy. This means that combination NRT (i.e. using two forms of NRT together such as a patch and gum) is not currently PBS-subsidised.

Under PBS rules, a maximum 12 weeks of PBS-subsidised NRT is available per 12-month period.

Australia has made commendable inroads in tobacco control and smoking rates with daily smoking nearly halved from 24% in 1991 to 12.8% in 2013. However, the job is not complete and there has been a slowing in the rate of decline with little change in prevalence from 2013 to 2016 (12.2%).

The latest National Tobacco Strategy aims to reduce the national adult daily smoking rate to 10% of the population and halve the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult daily smoking rate.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that the Government should act to assist those who struggle to afford the medicines that are proven to help people quit smoking.

“Some people can quit unassisted; however, those who take advantage of behavioural support and vital medicines including combination NRT, varenicline and bupropion will substantially increase their chances of quitting.

“The science is in – a host of randomised clinical trials tell us that these medicines work. Varenicline or combination NRT almost triples the odds of quitting and bupropion and NRT alone almost double the odds of quitting versus a placebo at six months. The evidence is also clear that combination NRT is most effective.

“However, as things stand we have fixed PBS rules that don’t reflect best-practice medical assistance. As a result, people trying to quit smoking miss out on PBS subsidies that could make a real difference.

“We need to improve flexibility in prescribing to cut costs for patients using pharmacotherapy so that people who could really benefit from these medicines can access them.

“It’s vital to allow for PBS-subsidised combination NRT, which is proven to be the most effective form of NRT.

“We should also allow GPs to prescribe a second round of PBS-subsidised NRT within a 12-month period because it will help reduce relapse in people who have stopped smoking at the end of a standard course of NRT. This is a public health policy no-brainer, pure and simple.”

Dr Nespolon noted that the inflexibility in PBS prescribing was particularly troubling given that smoking rates are inverse to socioeconomic status.

Chair of the Expert Advisory Group behind the guide, Professor Nicholas Zwar, said that health professionals including GPs should also be encouraged to embrace the “brief intervention” approach to smoking cessation.

“One of the most often cited barriers to providing smoking cessation advice is that it can prove time consuming.

“Up until now health professionals have used a ‘5A’s approach’ which involves identifying patients who smoke, assessing nicotine dependence and barriers to quitting, advising patients to quit, offering assistance and arranging a follow up. It is sound practice but it does take time.”

Professor Zwar said that under the three-step model developed by Quit Victoria, advice and help for patients trying to quit smoking could be easier to provide and more frequently offered by a range of health professionals.

“This three-step model offers patients best practice smoking cessation treatment by linking into multi-session behavioural interventions such as Quitline and encouraging the use of pharmacotherapy.

“It can be summarised as ask, advise and help. Ask and record a patient’s smoking status, advise people who smoke to quit and on the most effective methods for doing so and help them by offering to arrange referral, encourage use of behavioural intervention and the use of evidence-based pharmacotherapy.”

The guide update was funded by VicHealth and the Australian Government Department of Health.