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1.  Understanding, beliefs and perspectives of Aboriginal people in Western Australia about cancer and its impact on access to cancer services 
Background
Despite a lower overall incidence, Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes from cancer compared with the non-Aboriginal population as manifested by higher mortality and lower 5-year survival rates. Lower participation in screening, later diagnosis of cancer, poor continuity of care, and poorer compliance with treatment are known factors contributing to this poor outcome. Nevertheless, many deficits remain in understanding the underlying reasons, with the recommendation of further exploration of Aboriginal beliefs and perceptions of cancer to help understand their care-seeking behavior. This could assist with planning and delivery of more effective interventions and better services for the Aboriginal population. This research explored Western Australian (WA) Aboriginal peoples' perceptions, beliefs and understanding of cancer.
Methods
A total of 37 Aboriginal people from various geographical areas within WA with a direct or indirect experience of cancer were interviewed between March 2006 and September 2007. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers. NVivo7 software was used to assist data management and analysis. A social constructionist framework provided a theoretical basis for analysis. Interpretation occurred within the research team with member checking and the involvement of an Aboriginal Reference Group assisting with ensuring validity and reliability.
Results
Outcomes indicated that misunderstanding, fear of death, fatalism, shame, preference for traditional healing, beliefs such as cancer is contagious and other spiritual issues affected their decisions around accessing services. These findings provide important information for health providers who are involved in cancer-related service delivery.
Conclusion
These underlying beliefs must be specifically addressed to develop appropriate educational, screening and treatment approaches including models of care and support that facilitate better engagement of Indigenous people. Models of care and support that are more culturally-friendly, where health professionals take account of both Indigenous and Western beliefs about health and the relationship between these, and which engage and include Indigenous people need to be developed. Cultural security, removing system barriers and technical/scientific excellence are all important to ensure Indigenous people utilise healthcare to realise the benefits of modern cancer treatments.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-132
PMCID: PMC2731745  PMID: 19643031
2.  Identifying barriers and improving communication between cancer service providers and Aboriginal patients and their families: the perspective of service providers 
Background
Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes from cancer compared to the non-Aboriginal population. Some progress has been made in understanding Aboriginal Australians’ perspectives about cancer and their experiences with cancer services. However, little is known of cancer service providers’ (CSPs) thoughts and perceptions regarding Aboriginal patients and their experiences providing optimal cancer care to Aboriginal people. Communication between Aboriginal patients and non-Aboriginal health service providers has been identified as an impediment to good Aboriginal health outcomes. This paper reports on CSPs’ views about the factors impairing communication and offers practical strategies for promoting effective communication with Aboriginal patients in Western Australia (WA).
Methods
A qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with 62 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal CSPs from across WA was conducted between March 2006 - September 2007 and April-October 2011. CSPs were asked to share their experiences with Aboriginal patients and families experiencing cancer. Thematic analysis was carried out. Our analysis was primarily underpinned by the socio-ecological model, but concepts of Whiteness and privilege, and cultural security also guided our analysis.
Results
CSPs’ lack of knowledge about the needs of Aboriginal people with cancer and Aboriginal patients’ limited understanding of the Western medical system were identified as the two major impediments to communication. For effective patient–provider communication, attention is needed to language, communication style, knowledge and use of medical terminology and cross-cultural differences in the concept of time. Aboriginal marginalization within mainstream society and Aboriginal people’s distrust of the health system were also key issues impacting on communication. Potential solutions to effective Aboriginal patient-provider communication included recruiting more Aboriginal staff, providing appropriate cultural training for CSPs, cancer education for Aboriginal stakeholders, continuity of care, avoiding use of medical jargon, accommodating patients’ psychosocial and logistical needs, and in-service coordination.
Conclusion
Individual CSPs identified challenges in cross-cultural communication and their willingness to accommodate culture-specific needs within the wider health care system including better communication with Aboriginal patients. However, participants’ comments indicated a lack of concerted effort at the system level to address Aboriginal disadvantage in cancer outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-460
PMCID: PMC3835135  PMID: 24188503
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cancer; Communication; Health service provider; Cancer service provider
3.  Not just bricks and mortar: planning hospital cancer services for Aboriginal people 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:62.
Background
Aboriginal people in Australia experience higher mortality from cancer compared with non-Aboriginal Australians, despite an overall lower incidence. A notable contributor to this disparity is that many Aboriginal people do not take up or continue with cancer treatment which almost always occurs within major hospitals.
Thirty in-depth interviews with urban, rural and remote Aboriginal people affected by cancer were conducted between March 2006 and September 2007. Interviews explored participants' beliefs about cancer and experiences of cancer care and were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers. NVivo7 software was used to assist data management and analysis. Information from interviews relevant to hospital services including and building design was extracted.
Findings
Relationships and respect emerged as crucial considerations of participants although many aspects of the hospital environment were seen as influencing the delivery of care. Five themes describing concerns about the hospital environment emerged: (i) being alone and lost in a big, alien and inflexible system; (ii) failure of open communication, delays and inefficiency in the system; (iii) practicalities: costs, transportation, community and family responsibilities; (iv) the need for Aboriginal support persons; and (v) connection to the community.
Conclusions
Design considerations and were identified but more important than the building itself was the critical need to build trust in health services. Promotion of cultural safety, support for Aboriginal family structures and respecting the importance of place and community to Aboriginal patients are crucial in improving cancer outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-62
PMCID: PMC3068108  PMID: 21401923
4.  "If you don't believe it, it won't help you": use of bush medicine in treating cancer among Aboriginal people in Western Australia 
Background
Little is known about the use of bush medicine and traditional healing among Aboriginal Australians for their treatment of cancer and the meanings attached to it. A qualitative study that explored Aboriginal Australians' perspectives and experiences of cancer and cancer services in Western Australia provided an opportunity to analyse the contemporary meanings attached and use of bush medicine by Aboriginal people with cancer in Western Australia
Methods
Data collection occurred in Perth, both rural and remote areas and included individual in-depth interviews, observations and field notes. Of the thirty-seven interviews with Aboriginal cancer patients, family members of people who died from cancer and some Aboriginal health care providers, 11 participants whose responses included substantial mention on the issue of bush medicine and traditional healing were selected for the analysis for this paper.
Results
The study findings have shown that as part of their healing some Aboriginal Australians use traditional medicine for treating their cancer. Such healing processes and medicines were preferred by some because it helped reconnect them with their heritage, land, culture and the spirits of their ancestors, bringing peace of mind during their illness. Spiritual beliefs and holistic health approaches and practices play an important role in the treatment choices for some patients.
Conclusions
Service providers need to acknowledge and understand the existence of Aboriginal knowledge (epistemology) and accept that traditional healing can be an important addition to an Aboriginal person's healing complementing Western medical treatment regimes. Allowing and supporting traditional approaches to treatment reflects a commitment by modern medical services to adopting an Aboriginal-friendly approach that is not only culturally appropriate but assists with the cultural security of the service.
doi:10.1186/1746-4269-6-18
PMCID: PMC2902429  PMID: 20569478
5.  Aboriginal Families Study: a population-based study keeping community and policy goals in mind right from the start 
Background
Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are between two to five times more likely to die in childbirth than non-Aboriginal women, and two to three times more likely to have a low birthweight infant. Babies with a low birthweight are more likely to have chronic health problems in adult life. Currently, there is limited research evidence regarding effective interventions to inform new initiatives to strengthen antenatal care for Aboriginal families.
Method/Design
The Aboriginal Families Study is a cross sectional population-based study investigating the views and experiences of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women having an Aboriginal baby in the state of South Australia over a 2-year period. The primary aims are to compare the experiences and views of women attending standard models of antenatal care with those accessing care via Aboriginal Family Birthing Program services which include Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care (AMIC) Workers as members of the clinical team; to assess factors associated with early and continuing engagement with antenatal care; and to use the information to inform strengthening of services for Aboriginal families. Women living in urban, regional and remote areas of South Australia have been invited to take part in the study by completing a structured interview or, if preferred, a self-administered questionnaire, when their baby is between 4–12 months old.
Discussion
Having a baby is an important life event in all families and in all cultures. How supported women feel during pregnancy, how women and families are welcomed by services, how safe they feel coming in to hospitals to give birth, and what happens to families during a hospital stay and in the early months after the birth of a new baby are important social determinants of maternal, newborn and child health outcomes. The Aboriginal Families Study builds on consultation with Aboriginal communities across South Australia. The project has been implemented with guidance from an Aboriginal Advisory Group keeping community and policy goals in mind right from the start. The results of the study will provide a unique resource to inform quality improvement and strengthening of services for Aboriginal families.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-41
PMCID: PMC3689616  PMID: 23767813
Antenatal care; Health inequalities; Indigenous health; Maternal health; Participatory research; Perinatal health outcomes
6.  Aboriginal Health Workers experience multilevel barriers to quitting smoking: a qualitative study 
Introduction
Long-term measures to reduce tobacco consumption in Australia have had differential effects in the population. The prevalence of smoking in Aboriginal peoples is currently more than double that of the non-Aboriginal population. Aboriginal Health Workers are responsible for providing primary health care to Aboriginal clients including smoking cessation programs. However, Aboriginal Health Workers are frequently smokers themselves, and their smoking undermines the smoking cessation services they deliver to Aboriginal clients. An understanding of the barriers to quitting smoking experienced by Aboriginal Health Workers is needed to design culturally relevant smoking cessation programs. Once smoking is reduced in Aboriginal Health Workers, they may then be able to support Aboriginal clients to quit smoking.
Methods
We undertook a fundamental qualitative description study underpinned by social ecological theory. The research was participatory, and academic researchers worked in partnership with personnel from the local Aboriginal health council. The barriers Aboriginal Health Workers experience in relation to quitting smoking were explored in 34 semi-structured interviews (with 23 Aboriginal Health Workers and 11 other health staff) and 3 focus groups (n = 17 participants) with key informants. Content analysis was performed on transcribed text and interview notes.
Results
Aboriginal Health Workers spoke of burdensome stress and grief which made them unable to prioritise quitting smoking. They lacked knowledge about quitting and access to culturally relevant quitting resources. Interpersonal obstacles included a social pressure to smoke, social exclusion when quitting, and few role models. In many workplaces, smoking was part of organisational culture and there were challenges to implementation of Smokefree policy. Respondents identified inadequate funding of tobacco programs and a lack of Smokefree public spaces as policy level barriers. The normalisation of smoking in Aboriginal society was an overarching challenge to quitting.
Conclusions
Aboriginal Health Workers experience multilevel barriers to quitting smoking that include personal, social, cultural and environmental factors. Multidimensional smoking cessation programs are needed that reduce the stress and burden for Aboriginal Health Workers; provide access to culturally relevant quitting resources; and address the prevailing normalisation of smoking in the family, workplace and community.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-27
PMCID: PMC3477099  PMID: 22621767
Aboriginal people, Australia; Health care professionals; Tobacco and health; Smoking cessation; Qualitative research
7.  Improving palliative care outcomes for Aboriginal Australians: service providers’ perspectives 
BMC Palliative Care  2013;12:26.
Background
Aboriginal Australians have a lower rate of utilisation of palliative care services than the general population. This study aimed to explore care providers’ experiences and concerns in providing palliative care for Aboriginal people, and to identify opportunities for overcoming gaps in understanding between them and their Aboriginal patients and families.
Methods
In-depth, qualitative interviews with urban, rural and remote palliative care providers were undertaken in inpatient and community settings in Western Australia. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers with QSR NVivo 10 software used to help manage data. Data analysis was informed by multiple theoretical standpoints, including the social ecological model, critical cultural theories and the ‘cultural security’ framework. Thematic analysis was carried out that identified patterns within data.
Results
Fifteen palliative care providers were interviewed. Overall they reported lack of understanding of Aboriginal culture and being uncertain of the needs and priorities of Aboriginal people during end-of-life care. According to several participants, very few Aboriginal people had an understanding of palliative care. Managing issues such as anger, denial, the need for non-medical support due to socioeconomic disadvantage, and dealing with crises and conflicts over funeral arrangements were reported as some of the tensions between Aboriginal patients and families and the service providers.
Conclusion
Early referral to palliative care is important in demonstrating and maintaining a caring therapeutic relationship. Paramount to meeting the needs for Aboriginal patients was access to appropriate information and logistical, psychological and emotional support. These were often seen as essential but additional to standard palliative care services. The broader context of Aboriginal history and historical distrust of mainstream services was seen to impinge on Aboriginal people’s willingness and ability to accept care and support from these services. This context needs to be understood and acknowledged at the system level. More cultural safety training was requested by care providers but it was not seen as replacing the need for an Aboriginal worker in the palliative care team.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-12-26
PMCID: PMC3729490  PMID: 23875957
Palliative care; End of life care; Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cultural safety; Australia
8.  "It's almost expected": rural Australian Aboriginal women's reflections on smoking initiation and maintenance: a qualitative study 
BMC Women's Health  2011;11:55.
Background
Despite declining smoking rates among the general Australian population, rates among Indigenous Australians remain high, with 47% of the Indigenous population reporting daily smoking - twice that of other Australians. Among women, smoking rates are highest in younger age groups, with more than half of Aboriginal women smoking during pregnancy. A lack of research focused on understanding the social context of smoking by Aboriginal women in rural Australia limits our ability to reduce these rates. This study aimed to explore the factors contributing to smoking initiation among rural Aboriginal women and girls and the social context within which smoking behaviour occurs.
Methods
We conducted three focus groups with 14 Aboriginal women and service providers and 22 individual interviews with Aboriginal women from four rural communities to explore their perceptions of the factors contributing to smoking initiation among Aboriginal girls.
Results
Four inter-related factors were considered important to understanding the social context in which girls start smoking: colonisation and the introduction of tobacco; normalization of smoking within separate Aboriginal social networks; disadvantage and stressful lives; and the importance of maintaining relationships within extended family and community networks. Within this context, young girls use smoking to attain status and as a way of asserting Aboriginal identity and group membership, a way of belonging, not of rebelling. Family and social structures were seen as providing strong support, but limited the capacity of parents to influence children not to smoke. Marginalization was perceived to contribute to limited aspirations and opportunities, leading to pleasure-seeking in the present rather than having goals for the future.
Conclusions
The results support the importance of addressing contextual factors in any strategies aimed at preventing smoking initiation or supporting cessation among Aboriginal girls and women. It is critical to acknowledge Aboriginal identity and culture as a source of empowerment; and to recognise the role of persistent marginalization in contributing to the high prevalence and initiation of smoking.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-11-55
PMCID: PMC3305661  PMID: 22152218
9.  Increasing rates of surgical treatment and preventing comorbidities may increase breast cancer survival for Aboriginal women 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:163.
Background
Lower breast cancer survival has been reported for Australian Aboriginal women compared to non-Aboriginal women, however the reasons for this disparity have not been fully explored. We compared the surgical treatment and survival of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women diagnosed with breast cancer in New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
Methods
We analysed NSW cancer registry records of breast cancers diagnosed in 2001–2007, linked to hospital inpatient episodes and deaths. We used unconditional logistic regression to compare the odds of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women receiving surgical treatment. Breast cancer-specific survival was examined using cumulative mortality curves and Cox proportional hazards regression models.
Results
Of the 27 850 eligible women, 288 (1.03%) identified as Aboriginal. The Aboriginal women were younger and more likely to have advanced spread of disease when diagnosed than non-Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women were less likely than non-Aboriginal women to receive surgical treatment (odds ratio 0.59, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.42-0.86). The five-year crude breast cancer-specific mortality was 6.1% higher for Aboriginal women (17.7%, 95% CI 12.9-23.2) compared with non-Aboriginal women (11.6%, 95% CI 11.2-12.0). After accounting for differences in age at diagnosis, year of diagnosis, spread of disease and surgical treatment received the risk of death from breast cancer was 39% higher in Aboriginal women (HR 1.39, 95% CI 1.01-1.86). Finally after also accounting for differences in comorbidities, socioeconomic disadvantage and place of residence the hazard ratio was reduced to 1.30 (95% CI 0.94-1.75).
Conclusion
Preventing comorbidities and increasing rates of surgical treatment may increase breast cancer survival for NSW Aboriginal women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-163
PMCID: PMC3975643  PMID: 24606675
Australia/epidemiology; Breast Neoplasms/epidemiology; Female health services; Indigenous; Survival rate
10.  Estimates of cancer incidence, mortality and survival in aboriginal people from NSW, Australia 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:168.
Background
Aboriginal status has been unreliably and incompletely recorded in health and vital registration data collections for the most populous areas of Australia, including NSW where 29% of Australian Aboriginal people reside. This paper reports an assessment of Aboriginal status recording in NSW cancer registrations and estimates incidence, mortality and survival from cancer in NSW Aboriginal people using multiple imputation of missing Aboriginal status in NSW Central Cancer Registry (CCR) records.
Methods
Logistic regression modelling and multiple imputation were used to assign Aboriginal status to those records of cancer diagnosed from 1999 to 2008 with missing Aboriginality (affecting 12-18% of NSW cancers registered in this period). Estimates of incidence, mortality and survival from cancer in NSW Aboriginal people were compared with the NSW total population, as standardised incidence and mortality ratios, and with the non-Aboriginal population.
Results
Following imputation, 146 (12.2%) extra cancers in Aboriginal males and 140 (12.5%) in Aboriginal females were found for 1999-2007. Mean annual cancer incidence in NSW Aboriginal people was estimated to be 660 per 100,000 and 462 per 100,000, 9% and 6% higher than all NSW males and females respectively. Mean annual cancer mortality in NSW Aboriginal people was estimated to be 373 per 100,000 in males and 240 per 100,000 in females, 68% and 73% higher than for all NSW males and females respectively. Despite similar incidence of localised cancer, mortality from localised cancer in Aboriginal people is significantly higher than in non-Aboriginal people, as is mortality from cancers with regional, distant and unknown degree of spread at diagnosis. Cancer survival in Aboriginal people is significantly lower: 51% of males and 43% of females had died of the cancer by 5 years following diagnosis, compared to 36% and 33% of non-Aboriginal males and females respectively.
Conclusion
The present study is the first to produce valid and reliable estimates of cancer incidence, survival and mortality in Australian Aboriginal people from NSW. Despite somewhat higher cancer incidence in Aboriginal than in non-Aboriginal people, substantially higher mortality and lower survival in Aboriginal people is only partly explained by more advanced cancer at diagnosis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-168
PMCID: PMC3520119  PMID: 22559220
11.  “I know it’s bad for me and yet I do it”: exploring the factors that perpetuate smoking in Aboriginal Health Workers - a qualitative study 
Background
Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs) have a mandate to deliver smoking cessation support to Aboriginal people. However, a high proportion of AHWs are smokers and this undermines their delivery of smoking cessation programs. Smoking tobacco is the leading contributor to the burden of disease in Aboriginal Australians and must be prevented. Little is known about how to enable AHWs to quit smoking. An understanding of the factors that perpetuate smoking in AHWs is needed to inform the development of culturally relevant programs that enable AHWs to quit smoking. A reduction of smoking in AHWs is important to promote their health and also optimise the delivery of smoking cessation support to Aboriginal clients.
Methods
We conducted a fundamental qualitative description study that was nested within a larger mixed method participatory research project. The individual and contextual factors that directly or indirectly promote (i.e. perpetuate) smoking behaviours in AHWs were explored in 34 interviews and 3 focus groups. AHWs, other health service staff and tobacco control personnel shared their perspectives. Data analysis was performed using a qualitative content analysis approach with collective member checking by AHW representatives.
Results
AHWs were highly stressed, burdened by their responsibilities, felt powerless and undervalued, and used smoking to cope with and support a sense of social connectedness in their lives. Factors directly and indirectly associated with smoking were reported at six levels of behavioural influence: personal factors (e.g. stress, nicotine addiction), family (e.g. breakdown of family dynamics, grief and loss), interpersonal processes (e.g. socialisation and connection, domestic disputes), the health service (e.g. job insecurity and financial insecurity, demanding work), the community (e.g. racism, social disadvantage) and policy (e.g. short term and insecure funding).
Conclusions
An extensive array of factors perpetuated smoking in AHWs. The multitude of personal, social and environmental stressors faced by AHWs and the accepted use of communal smoking to facilitate socialisation and connection were primary drivers of smoking in AHWs in addition to nicotine dependence. Culturally sensitive multidimensional smoking cessation programs that address these factors and can be tailored to local needs are indicated.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-102
PMCID: PMC3394210  PMID: 22533609
12.  Are the processes recommended by the NHMRC for improving Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being implemented?: an assessment of CR Services across Western Australia 
Background
Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of premature death of Indigenous Australians, and despite evidence that cardiac rehabilitation (CR) and secondary prevention can reduce recurrent disease and deaths, CR uptake is suboptimal. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines Strengthening Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, published in 2005, provide checklists for services to assist them to reduce the service gap for Indigenous people. This study describes health professionals' awareness, implementation, and perspectives of barriers to implementation of these guidelines based on semi-structured interviews conducted between November 2007 and June 2008 with health professionals involved in CR within mainstream health services in Western Australia (WA). Twenty-four health professionals from 17 services (10 rural, 7 metropolitan) listed in the WA Directory of CR services were interviewed.
Results
The majority of respondents reported that they were unfamiliar with the NHMRC guidelines and as a consequence implementation of the recommendations was minimal and inconsistently applied. Respondents reported that they provided few in-patient CR-related services to Indigenous patients, services upon discharge were erratic, and they had few Indigenous-specific resources for patients. Issues relating to workforce, cultural competence, and service linkages emerged as having most impact on design and delivery of CR services for Indigenous people in WA.
Conclusions
This study has demonstrated limited awareness and poor implementation in WA of the recommendations of the NHMRC Strengthening Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: A Guide for Health Professionals. The disproportionate burden of CVD morbidity and mortality among Indigenous Australians mandates urgent attention to this problem and alternative approaches to CR delivery. Dedicated resources and alternative approaches to CR delivery for Indigenous Australians are needed.
doi:10.1186/1743-8462-6-29
PMCID: PMC2806388  PMID: 20042097
13.  Exploring the expression of depression and distress in aboriginal men in central Australia: a qualitative study 
BMC Psychiatry  2012;12:97.
Background
Despite being at heightened risk of developing mental illness, there has been little research into the experience of depression in Australian Aboriginal populations. This study aimed to outline the expression, experience, manifestations and consequences of emotional distress and depression in Aboriginal men in central Australia.
Methods
Utilizing a grounded theory approach, in depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 theoretically sampled young, middle aged and senior Aboriginal men and traditional healers. Analysis was conducted by a single investigator using constant comparison methods.
Results
Depressive symptoms were common and identifiable, and largely consistent with symptom profiles seen in non-Aboriginal groups. For Aboriginal men, depression was expressed and understood as primarily related to weakness or injury of the spirit, with a lack of reference to hopelessness and specific somatic complaints. The primary contributors to depression related to the loss of connection to social and cultural features of Aboriginal life, cumulative stress and marginalisation.
Conclusions
Depression and depressive symptomatology clearly exists in Aboriginal men, however its determinants and expression differ from mainstream populations. Emotions were understood within the construction of spirit, Kurunpa, which was vulnerable to repetitive and powerful negative social forces, loss, and stress across the life course, and served to frame the physical and emotional experience and expression of depression.
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-97
PMCID: PMC3441213  PMID: 22853622
14.  Setting and meeting priorities in Indigenous health research in Australia and its application in the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health 
Priority setting is about making decisions. Key issues faced during priority setting processes include identifying who makes these decisions, who sets the criteria, and who benefits. The paper reviews the literature and history around priority setting in research, particularly in Aboriginal health research. We explore these issues through a case study of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH)'s experience in setting and meeting priorities.
Historically, researchers have made decisions about what research gets done. Pressures of growing competition for research funds and an increased public interest in research have led to demands that appropriate consultation with stakeholders is conducted and that research is of benefit to the wider society. Within Australian Aboriginal communities, these demands extend to Aboriginal control of research to ensure that Aboriginal priorities are met.
In response to these demands, research priorities are usually agreed in consultation with stakeholders at an institutional level and researchers are asked to develop relevant proposals at a project level. The CRCAH's experience in funding rounds was that scientific merit was given more weight than stakeholders' priorities and did not necessarily result in research that met these priorities. After reviewing these processes in 2004, the CRCAH identified a new facilitated development approach. In this revised approach, the setting of institutional priorities is integrated with the development of projects in a way that ensures the research reflects stakeholder priorities.
This process puts emphasis on identifying projects that reflect priorities prior to developing the quality of the research, rather than assessing the relevance to priorities and quality concurrently. Part of the CRCAH approach is the employment of Program Managers who ensure that stakeholder priorities are met in the development of research projects. This has enabled researchers and stakeholders to come together to collaboratively develop priority-driven research. Involvement by both groups in project development has been found to be essential in making decisions that will lead to robust and useful research.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-7-25
PMCID: PMC2788537  PMID: 19925681
15.  Measuring emotional and social wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations: an analysis of a Negative Life Events Scale 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience widespread socioeconomic disadvantage and health inequality. In an attempt to make Indigenous health research more culturally-appropriate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have called for more attention to the concept of emotional and social wellbeing (ESWB). Although it has been widely recognised that ESWB is of crucial importance to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, there is little consensus on how to measure in Indigenous populations, hampering efforts to better understand and improve the psychosocial determinants of health. This paper explores the policy and political context to this situation, and suggests ways to move forward. The second part of the paper explores how scales can be evaluated in a health research setting, including assessments of endorsement, discrimination, internal and external reliability.
We then evaluate the use of a measure of stressful life events, the Negative Life Events Scale (NLES), in two samples of Aboriginal people living in remote communities in the Northern Territory of Australia. We argue that the Negative Life Events Scale is a promising assessment of psychosocial wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Evaluation of the scale and its performance in other samples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations is imperative if we hope to develop better, rather than more, scales for measuring ESWB among Indigenous Australians. Only then will it be possible to establish standardized methods of measuring ESWB and develop a body of comparable literature that can guide both a better understanding of ESWB, and evaluation of interventions designed to improve the psychosocial health of Indigenous populations and decrease health inequalities.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-6-18
PMCID: PMC2203968  PMID: 18001479
16.  Factors influencing health care utilisation among Aboriginal cardiac patients in central Australia: a qualitative study 
Background
Aboriginal Australians suffer from poorer overall health compared to the general Australian population, particularly in terms of cardiovascular disease and prognosis following a cardiac event. Despite such disparities, Aboriginal Australians utilise health care services at much lower rates than the general population. Improving health care utilisation (HCU) among Aboriginal cardiac patients requires a better understanding of the factors that constrain or facilitate use. The study aimed to identify ecological factors influencing health care utilisation (HCU) for Aboriginal cardiac patients, from the time of their cardiac event to 6–12 months post-event, in central Australia.
Methods
This qualitative descriptive study was guided by an ecological framework. A culturally-sensitive illness narrative focusing on Aboriginal cardiac patients’ “typical” journey guided focus groups and semi-structured interviews with Aboriginal cardiac patients, non-cardiac community members, health care providers and community researchers. Analysis utilised a thematic conceptual matrix and mixed coding method. Themes were categorised into Predisposing, Enabling, Need and Reinforcing factors and identified at Individual, Interpersonal, Primary Care and Hospital System levels.
Results
Compelling barriers to HCU identified at the Primary Care and Hospital System levels included communication, organisation and racism. Individual level factors related to HCU included language, knowledge of illness, perceived need and past experiences. Given these individual and health system barriers patients were reliant on utilising alternate family-level supports at the Interpersonal level to enable their journey.
Conclusion
Aboriginal cardiac patients face significant barriers to HCU, resulting in sub-optimal quality of care, placing them at risk for subsequent cardiovascular events and negative health outcomes. To facilitate HCU amongst Aboriginal people, strategies must be implemented to improve communication on all levels and reduce systemic barriers operating within the health system.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-83
PMCID: PMC3606832  PMID: 23497140
Health care utilisation; Facilitators/barriers to care; Cardiovascular disease; Indigenous; Aboriginal
17.  Voting with their feet - predictors of discharge against medical advice in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ischaemic heart disease inpatients in Western Australia: an analytic study using data linkage 
Background
Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) from hospital is associated with adverse outcomes and is considered an indicator of the responsiveness of hospitals to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the indigenous people of Australia. We investigated demographic and clinical factors that predict DAMA in patients experiencing their first-ever inpatient admission for ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The study focuses particularly on the differences in the risk of DAMA in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients while also investigating other factors in their own right.
Methods
A cross-sectional analytical study was undertaken using linked hospital and mortality data with complete coverage of Western Australia. Participants included all first-ever IHD inpatients (aged 25–79 years) admitted between 2005 and 2009, selected after a 15-year clearance period and who were discharged alive. The main outcome measure was DAMA as reflected in the hospital record.
Multiple logistic regression was used to determine disparities in DAMA between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients, adjusting for a range of demographic and clinical factors, including comorbidity based on 5-year hospitalization history. A series of additional models were run on subgroups of the cohort to refine the analysis. Ethics approval was granted by the WA Human Research and the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committees.
Results
Aboriginal patients comprised 4.3% of the cohort of 37,304 IHD patients and 23% of the 224 DAMAs. Emergency admission (OR=5.9, 95% CI 2.9-12.2), alcohol admission history (alcohol-related OR=2.9, 95% CI 2.0-4.2) and Aboriginality (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5-3.5) were the strongest predictors of DAMA in the multivariate model. Patients living in rural areas while attending non-metropolitan hospitals had a 50% higher risk of DAMA than those living and hospitalised in metropolitan areas. There was consistency in the ORs for Aboriginality in the different multivariate models using restricted sub-cohorts and different Aboriginal identifiers. Sex, IHD diagnosis type and co-morbidity scores imparted different risks in Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal patients.
Conclusions
Understanding the risks and reasons for DAMA is important for health system policy and proactive management of those at risk of DAMA. Improving care to prevent DAMA should target unplanned admissions, rural hospitals and young men, Aboriginal people and those with alcohol and mental health comorbidities.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-330
PMCID: PMC3765140  PMID: 23962275
Discharge against medical advice; Aboriginal health; Ischaemic Heart Disease; Linked data; Australia
18.  The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH): study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:287.
Background
Aboriginal Australians have a life expectancy more than ten years less than that of non-Aboriginal Australians, reflecting their disproportionate burden of both communicable and non-communicable disease throughout the lifespan. Little is known about the health and health trajectories of Aboriginal children and, although the majority of Aboriginal people live in urban areas, data are particularly sparse in relation to children living in urban areas.
Methods/Design
The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) is a cohort study of Aboriginal children aged 0-17 years, from urban and large regional centers in New South Wales, Australia. SEARCH focuses on Aboriginal community identified health priorities of: injury; otitis media; vaccine-preventable conditions; mental health problems; developmental delay; obesity; and risk factors for chronic disease. Parents/caregivers and their children are invited to participate in SEARCH at the time of presentation to one of the four participating Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations at Mount Druitt, Campbelltown, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle. Questionnaire data are obtained from parents/caregivers and children, along with signed permission for follow-up through repeat data collection and data linkage. All children have their height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured and complete audiometry, otoscopy/pneumatic otoscopy and tympanometry. Children aged 1-7 years have speech and language assessed and their parents/caregivers complete the Parental Evaluation of Developmental Status. The Study aims to recruit 1700 children by the end of 2010 and to secure resources for long term follow up. From November 2008 to March 2010, 1010 children had joined the study. From those 446 children with complete data entry, participating children ranged in age from 2 weeks to 17 years old, with 144 aged 0-3, 147 aged 4-7, 75 aged 8-10 and 79 aged 11-17. 55% were male and 45% female.
Discussion
SEARCH is built on strong community partnerships, under Aboriginal leadership, and addresses community priorities relating to a number of under-researched areas. SEARCH will provide a unique long-term resource to investigate the causes and trajectories of health and illness in urban Aboriginal children and to identify potential targets for interventions to improve health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-287
PMCID: PMC2896939  PMID: 20507632
19.  Breastfeeding Duration and Residential Isolation amid Aboriginal Children in Western Australia 
Nutrients  2012;4(12):2020-2034.
Objectives: To examine factors that impact on breastfeeding duration among Western Australian Aboriginal children. We hypothesised that Aboriginal children living in remote locations in Western Australia were breastfed for longer than those living in metropolitan locations. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional survey was conducted from 2000 to 2002 in urban, rural and remote settings across Western Australia. Cross-tabulations and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed, using survey weights to produce unbiased estimates for the population of Aboriginal children. Data on demographic, maternal and infant characteristics were collected from 3932 Aboriginal birth mothers about their children aged 0–17 years (representing 22,100 Aboriginal children in Western Australia). Results: 71% of Aboriginal children were breastfed for three months or more. Accounting for other factors, there was a strong gradient for breastfeeding duration by remoteness, with Aboriginal children living in areas of moderate isolation being 3.2 times more likely to be breastfed for three months or more (p < 0.001) compared to children in metropolitan Perth. Those in areas of extreme isolation were 8.6 times more likely to be breastfed for three months or longer (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Greater residential isolation a protective factor linked to longer breastfeeding duration for Aboriginal children in our West Australian cohort.
doi:10.3390/nu4122020
PMCID: PMC3546620  PMID: 23363997
breastfeeding duration; Australian Aboriginal children; isolation
20.  ‘Doing the hard yards’: carer and provider focus group perspectives of accessing Aboriginal childhood disability services 
Background
Despite a high prevalence of disability, Aboriginal Australians access disability services in Australia less than non-Aboriginal Australians with a disability. The needs of Aboriginal children with disability are particularly poorly understood. They can endure long delays in treatment which can impact adversely on development. This study sought to ascertain the factors involved in accessing services and support for Aboriginal children with a disability.
Methods
Using the focus group method, two community forums, one for health and service providers and one for carers of Aboriginal children with a disability, were held at an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) in the Sydney, metropolitan area of New South Wales, Australia. Framework analysis was applied to qualitative data to elucidate key issues relevant to the dimensions of access framework. Independent coding consistency checks were performed and consensus of analysis verified by the entire research team, several of whom represented the local Aboriginal community.
Results
Seventeen health and social service providers representing local area government and non-government-funded health and social service organisations and five carers participated in two separate forums between September and October 2011. Lack of awareness of services and inadequate availability were prominent concerns in both groups despite geographic proximity to a major metropolitan area with significant health infrastructure. Carers noted racism, insufficient or non-existent services, and the need for an enhanced role of ACCHSs and AHWs in disability support services. Providers highlighted logistical barriers and cultural and historical issues that impacted on the effectiveness of mainstream services for Aboriginal people.
Conclusions
Despite dedicated disability services in an urban community, geographic proximity does not mitigate lack of awareness and availability of support. This paper has enumerated a number of considerations to address provision of disability services in an urban Australian Aboriginal community including building expertise and specialist capacity within Aboriginal Health Worker positions and services.
Increasing awareness of services, facilitating linkages and referrals, eliminating complexities to accessing support, and working with families and Aboriginal community organisations within a framework of resilience and empowerment to ensure a relevant and acceptable model are necessary steps to improving support and care for Aboriginal children with a disability.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-326
PMCID: PMC3765087  PMID: 23958272
Childhood disability; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; Early intervention; Focus groups
21.  Absent otoacoustic emissions predict otitis media in young Aboriginal children: A birth cohort study in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in an arid zone of Western Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:32.
Background
Otitis media (OM) is the most common paediatric illness for which antibiotics are prescribed. In Australian Aboriginal children OM is frequently asymptomatic and starts at a younger age, is more common and more likely to result in hearing loss than in non-Aboriginal children. Absent transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) may predict subsequent risk of OM.
Methods
100 Aboriginal and 180 non-Aboriginal children in a semi-arid zone of Western Australia were followed regularly from birth to age 2 years. Tympanometry was conducted at routine field follow-up from age 3 months. Routine clinical examination by an ENT specialist was to be done 3 times and hearing assessment by an audiologist twice. TEOAEs were measured at ages <1 and 1–2 months. Cox proportional hazards model was used to investigate the association between absent TEOAEs and subsequent risk of OM.
Results
At routine ENT specialist clinics, OM was detected in 55% of 184 examinations in Aboriginal children and 26% of 392 examinations in non-Aboriginal children; peak prevalence was 72% at age 5–9 months in Aboriginal children and 40% at 10–14 months in non-Aboriginal children. Moderate-severe hearing loss was present in 32% of 47 Aboriginal children and 7% of 120 non-Aboriginal children aged 12 months or more.
TEOAE responses were present in 90% (46/51) of Aboriginal children and 99% (120/121) of non-Aboriginal children aged <1 month and in 62% (21/34) and 93% (108/116), respectively, in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children at age 1–2 months. Aboriginal children who failed TEOAE at age 1–2 months were 2.6 times more likely to develop OM subsequently than those who passed.
Overall prevalence of type B tympanograms at field follow-up was 50% (n = 78) in Aboriginal children and 20% (n = 95) in non-Aboriginal children.
Conclusion
The burden of middle ear disease is high in all children, but particularly in Aboriginal children, one-third of whom suffer from moderate-severe hearing loss. In view of the frequently silent nature of OM, every opportunity must be taken to screen for OM. Measurement of TEOAEs at age 1–2 months to identify children at risk of developing OM should be evaluated in a routine health service setting.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-8-32
PMCID: PMC2538518  PMID: 18755038
22.  Service providers’ perspectives, attitudes and beliefs on health services delivery for Aboriginal people receiving haemodialysis in rural Australia: a qualitative study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(10):e003581.
Objective
Providing services to rural dwelling minority cultural groups with serious chronic disease is challenging due to access to care and cultural differences. This study aimed to describe service providers’ perspectives on health services delivery for Aboriginal people receiving haemodialysis for end-stage kidney disease in rural Australia.
Design
Semistructured interviews, thematic analysis
Setting
A health district in rural New South Wales, Australia
Participants
Using purposive sampling, 29 renal and allied service providers were recruited, including nephrologists, renal nurses, community nurses, Aboriginal health workers, social workers and managers. Six were Aboriginal and 23 non-Aboriginal.
Results
Improving cultural understanding within the healthcare system was central to five themes identified: rigidity of service design (outreach, inevitable home treatment failures, pressure of system overload, limited efficacy of cultural awareness training and conflicting priorities in acute care); responding to social complexities (respecting but challenged by family obligations, assumptions about socioeconomic status and individualised care); promoting empowerment, trust and rapport (bridging gaps in cultural understanding, acknowledging the relationship between land, people and environment, and being time poor); distress at late diagnosis (lost opportunities and prioritise prevention); and contending with discrimination and racism (inherent judgement of lifestyle choices, inadequate cultural awareness, pervasive multilevel institutionalised racism and managing patient distrust).
Conclusions
Service providers believe current services are not designed to address cultural needs and Aboriginality, and that caring for Aboriginal patients receiving haemodialysis should be family focused and culturally safer. An Aboriginal-specific predialysis pathway, building staff cultural awareness and enhancing cultural safety within hospitals are the measures recommended. Increasing patient support for home haemodialysis may improve health and the quality of care outcomes.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003581
PMCID: PMC3808758  PMID: 24157820
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH; NEPHROLOGY
23.  Mortality after admission for acute myocardial infarction in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in New South Wales, Australia: a multilevel data linkage study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:281.
Background
Heart disease is a leading cause of the gap in burden of disease between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Our study investigated short- and long-term mortality after admission for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people admitted with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) to public hospitals in New South Wales, Australia, and examined the impact of the hospital of admission on outcomes.
Methods
Admission records were linked to mortality records for 60047 patients aged 25–84 years admitted with a diagnosis of AMI between July 2001 and December 2008. Multilevel logistic regression was used to estimate adjusted odds ratios (AOR) for 30- and 365-day all-cause mortality.
Results
Aboriginal patients admitted with an AMI were younger than non-Aboriginal patients, and more likely to be admitted to lower volume, remote hospitals without on-site angiography. Adjusting for age, sex, year and hospital, Aboriginal patients had a similar 30-day mortality risk to non-Aboriginal patients (AOR: 1.07; 95% CI 0.83-1.37) but a higher risk of dying within 365 days (AOR: 1.34; 95% CI 1.10-1.63). The latter difference did not persist after adjustment for comorbid conditions (AOR: 1.12; 95% CI 0.91-1.38). Patients admitted to more remote hospitals, those with lower patient volume and those without on-site angiography had increased risk of short and long-term mortality regardless of Aboriginal status.
Conclusions
Improving access to larger hospitals and those with specialist cardiac facilities could improve outcomes following AMI for all patients. However, major efforts to boost primary and secondary prevention of AMI are required to reduce the mortality gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-281
PMCID: PMC3481361  PMID: 22490109
Hospital performance; Acute myocardial infarction; Ischaemic heart disease; Aboriginal health; Health outcomes; Multilevel modelling; Data linkage
24.  Trends in road injury hospitalisation rates for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Western Australia, 1971–97 
Injury Prevention  2002;8(3):211-215.
Objective: To examine trends in road injury hospitalisation rates for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Western Australia.
Methods: Data from the Western Australian Hospital Morbidity Data System for the years between 1971 and 1997 were analysed. Poisson regression models were fitted to determine whether the trends were significant.
Results: The rate of hospitalisation due to road injury for Aboriginal people (719.1 per 100 000 population per year) over the time period examined was almost twice as high as that for non-Aboriginal people (363.4 per 100 000 population per year). Overall, the results showed that while hospitalisations from road injury involving non-Aboriginal people have been decreasing by 6.7% per three year period since 1971, the rates of hospitalisation for Aboriginal people have been increasing by 2.6% per three year period. Both of these trends were statistically significant. The alarming increasing trend observed for Aboriginal people was more pronounced in males, those aged 0–14 years and over 45 years, and for those living in rural areas.
Conclusions: As the rates of road injury for Aboriginal people are higher than for non-Aboriginal people, and are also following an increasing trend, road safety issues involving Aboriginal people need to be addressed urgently by health and transport authorities.
doi:10.1136/ip.8.3.211
PMCID: PMC1730892  PMID: 12226118
25.  Inequalities in ventilation tube insertion procedures between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in New South Wales, Australia: a data linkage study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(11):e003807.
Objectives
Australian Aboriginal children experience earlier, more frequent and more severe otitis media, particularly in remote communities, than non-Aboriginal children. Insertion of ventilation tubes is the main surgical procedure for otitis media. Our aim was to quantify inequalities in ventilation tube insertion (VTI) procedures between Australian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, and to explore the influence of birth characteristics, socioeconomic background and geographical remoteness on this inequality.
Design
Retrospective cohort study using linked hospital and mortality data from July 2000 to December 2008.
Setting and participants
A whole-of-population cohort of 653 550 children (16 831 Aboriginal and 636 719 non-Aboriginal) born in a New South Wales hospital between 1 July 2000 and 31 December 2007 was included in the analysis.
Outcome measure
First VTI procedure.
Results
VTI rates were lower in Aboriginal compared with non-Aboriginal children (incidence rate (IR), 4.3/1000 person-years; 95% CI 3.8 to 4.8 vs IR 5.8/1000 person-years; 95% CI 5.7 to 5.8). Overall, Aboriginal children were 28% less likely than non-Aboriginal children to have ventilation tubes inserted (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted rate ratios (RRs) 0.72; 95% CI 0.64 to 0.80). After adjusting additionally for geographical remoteness, Aboriginal children were 19% less likely to have ventilation tubes inserted (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted RR 0.81; 95% CI 0.73 to 0.91). After adjusting separately for private patient/health insurance status and area socioeconomic status, there was no significant difference (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted RR 0.96; 95% CI 0.86 to 1.08 and RR 0.93; 95% CI 0.83 to 1.04, respectively). In the fully adjusted model, there were no significant differences in VTI rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children (RR 1.06; 95% CI 0.94 to 1.19).
Conclusions
Despite a much higher prevalence of otitis media, Aboriginal children were less likely to receive VTI procedures than their non-Aboriginal counterparts; this inequality was largely explained by differences in socioeconomic status and geographical remoteness.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003807
PMCID: PMC3845074  PMID: 24285631
Epidemiology; Public Health

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