NACCHO MJA report: Partnership and leadership: key to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal people

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Article by:Tammy M Kimpton, BMed, President, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association, Canberra, ACT.

Pictured above second from right at last weeks AIDA launch

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association urges all medical professionals to support and participate in the values it hopes will be embedded in future health policy

This year, we will see the development of a new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to guide governments in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.1 Development of the Health Plan will be led by the Minister for Indigenous Health, with the support of a stakeholder advisory group to bring together the government and organisations with expertise in Indigenous health.2

The aim of this Health Plan is to shape the tone, direction and content of Indigenous health policy into the future. Apart from becoming familiar with the evidence and government priorities on areas of Indigenous health that relate to our work, medical professionals should note the particular values and themes that the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) wants to see embedded throughout the document; these include culture, partnership, Indigenous leadership and workforce. These principles are inextricably linked and are important not only to federal policy development and implementation but also to individual medical professionals in a range of areas, including in our day-to-day interactions with patients, care planning and staff recruitment and development.

Workforce will need to be an important feature of the Health Plan because building an adequate health workforce is crucial to delivering high-quality, sustainable health services for Indigenous people. The Indigenous medical workforce in Australia is growing, but Indigenous people are still underrepresented in this area. In 2011, the intake of first-year Indigenous medical students in Australian universities reached parity at 2.5% — for the first time matching the proportion of Australia’s population made up of Indigenous people.3 To ensure that the Indigenous medical workforce continues to grow, academic, professional and cultural support is essential. In particular, Indigenous medical students and doctors are more likely to stay and thrive in learning and working environments that consistently demonstrate cultural safety.3

The solution to both a stronger workforce and further improvements in Indigenous health is partnership: our people working alongside non-Indigenous people in order to achieve an agreed goal. Such partnerships are seen in collaboration agreements which spread across the medical education continuum. Agreements currently exist between AIDA and Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, and AIDA and the Confederation of Postgraduate Medical Education Councils; an agreement will soon be launched between AIDA and the Committee of Presidents of Medical Colleges. This collaboration did not happen overnight; it was a lengthy process, with trust being built over time and through each organisation demonstrating its commitment to improving Indigenous health. These best-practice models are available on the AIDA website (http://www.aida.org.au/partnerships.aspx) and should be recognised by all medical professionals as a best-practice framework for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, health is not just about an individual’s physical wellbeing; it is a holistic concept that encompasses the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the entire community. AIDA asserts that the Health Plan needs to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at its centre in recognition of the importance of culture to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people. As medical professionals, we must also embed culture in the provision of health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as evidence shows correlations between increased cultural attachment and better health and wellbeing.1 In achieving this, it is important that the Health Plan be developed and conducted through genuine partnerships between governments, Indigenous organisations and communities, not only because such an approach is consistent with what is contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but because it makes good sense.4

AIDA recommends creating strong partnerships with Indigenous organisations and communities to guarantee Indigenous participation in decision making and showcase strong Indigenous leadership in communities.3

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, particularly through the peak national health bodies, is paramount in providing government with professional advice from Indigenous health practitioners in developing the Health Plan.3 AIDA recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations play a central role in the health of Indigenous people; however, it is also important that members of the non-Indigenous mainstream health workforce play their role in delivering equitable services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is expected that the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan will be released later this year. I encourage you, upon reading it, to ask yourself what your role is in delivering quality and culturally appropriate health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to consider how this role could be strengthened. As members of the health workforce, we need to locate ourselves within the Health Plan and implement strategies in partnership with Indigenous communities and organisations. AIDA argues that this combination of strategic action and partnership is critical to achieving equitable health and life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NACCHO Male Health news: Aboriginal Men Heed the Call for Better Health

Male Health Summit - Ross River Resort - July 2013

Outcomes from this summit will follow later this week

About 120 Aboriginal men from across Australia have joined together at a national summit to identify ways to improve the health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in remote communities.

 

Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, said today the three-day summit involved men from 29 communities from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

“For the first time, we are working closely with the men who live in these areas and asking them for their recommendations and ideas on ways to improve their health and the health of their families and communities,” he said.

“The summit will discuss a number of issues impacting health, including physical, social and emotional wellbeing, culture, employment, incarceration, and access to services in remote Aboriginal communities.

“At the end of the Summit, we hope to have developed some plans for action they can take back to their communities.” 

 The Australian Government’s National Partnership on Remote Service Delivery has identified each of the communities represented at the Summit as a priority area.

Under the partnership, the Government is working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve service delivery and facilities, to raise the quality of services, and support community leadership.

“Rather than having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel like they’re part of the problem, we want to encourage and support Aboriginal men to be part of the solution,” Mr Snowdon said.

 The Australian Government has provided $440,000 to support the Aboriginal Health Summit in partnership with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service.

The Australian Government has funded a wide range of programs targeting men’s health, following the release of the National Male Health Policy. Including initiatives to prevent and treat prostate cancer, new funding for mental health programs aimed at men, supporting Men’s Sheds and funding organisations that address key male health issues including reproductive health.

There has also been funding committed towards programs to address the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Recognising and promoting the positive roles Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males have in managing their own health, and in supporting the health of all members of their communities including women and children.

The Australian Government is also investing in providing better treatment for men with prostate cancer, with about 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Abiraterone acetate (marketed as Zytiga®) will be available on the PBS from 1 August 2013, at a cost of $46 million over four years. 

Funding of $7 million over four years was recently announced to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia to support up to 13 Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurses to assist and support up to 4,000 men with prostate cancer.

In an effort to address suicide rates particularly among males, the Federal Government is investing $23 million to expand the beyondblue national workplace program, and building on the Info Line for men.

Campaigns are also being developed to address the stigma around depression, anxiety and related disorders.

Through the Strong Fathers Strong Families (SFSF) initiative $6.8 million has been provided to promote the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers, partners, grandfathers and uncles and encourage them to actively participate in their children’s and families’ lives.

More than $300,000 has been provided to establish, equip and promote Men’s Sheds as a positive contributor towards health, wellbeing and community engagement issues within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

White Lion has been granted $275,000 to provide intensive outreach support for young Aboriginal people who are incarcerated or have recently been released from incarceration.

 Media Contact: Marcus Butler  02 6277 7820 or  0417 917 796

 

Minister Warren Snowdon - Male Health Summit - Ross River Resort