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.
breastfeeding duration; Australian Aboriginal children; isolation
A prospective Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) study has been underway in Australia's Northern Territory since 1987. Inclusion of oral epidemiological information in a follow-up study required flexible and novel approaches with unconventional techniques. Documenting these procedures may be of value to researchers interested in including oral health components in remotely-located studies. The objectives are to compare and describe dental data collection methods in wave III of the ABC study with a more conventional oral health investigation.
The Australian National Survey of Adult Oral Health (NSAOH) was considered the 'conventional' study. Differences between this investigation and the dental component of the ABC study were assessed in terms of ethics, location, recruitment, consent, privacy, equipment, examination, clinical data collection and replication. In the ABC study, recording of clinical data by different voice recording techniques were described and assessed for ease-of-use portability, reliability, time-efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Conventional investigation recruitment was by post and telephone. Participants self presented. Examinations took place in dental clinics, using customised dental chairs with standard dental lights attached. For all examinations, a dental assistant recorded dental data directly onto a laptop computer. By contrast, follow-up of ABC study participants involved a multi-phase protocol with reliance on locally-employed Indigenous advocates bringing participants to the examination point. Dental examinations occurred in settings ranging from health centre clinic rooms to improvised spaces outdoors. The dental chair was a lightweight, portable reclining camp chair and the dental light a fire-fighter's head torch with rechargeable batteries. The digital voice recorder was considered the most suitable instrument for clinical dental data collection in the ABC study in comparison with computer-based voice-recording software.
Oral health examinations among indigenous populations residing in predominantly remote locations are more logistically challenging than are surveys of the general population. However, lack of resources or conventional clinical infrastructures need not compromise the collection of dental data in such studies. Instead, there is a need to be flexible and creative in establishing culturally-sensitive environments with available resources, and to consider non-conventional approaches to data gathering.
Diabetes is an important contributor to the health inequity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. This study aims to estimate incidence rates of diabetes and to assess its associations with impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) among Aboriginal participants in a remote community.
Six hundred and eighty six (686) Aboriginal Australians aged 20 to 74 years free from diabetes at baseline were followed for a median of 11 years. During the follow-up period, new diabetes cases were identified through hospital records. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess relationships of the incidence rates of diabetes with IFG, IGT and body mass index (BMI).
One hundred and twenty four (124) new diabetes cases were diagnosed during the follow up period. Incidence rates increased with increasing age, from 2.2 per 1000 person-years for those younger than 25 years to 39.9 per 1000 person-years for those 45-54 years. By age of 60 years, cumulative incidence rates were 49% for Aboriginal men and 70% for Aboriginal women. The rate ratio for developing diabetes in the presence of either IFG or IGT at baseline was 2.2 (95% CI: 1.5, 3.3), adjusting for age, sex and BMI. Rate ratios for developing diabetes were 2.2 (95% CI: 1.4, 3.5) for people who were overweight and 4.7 (95% CI: 3.0, 7.4) for people who were obese at baseline, with adjustment of age, sex and the presence of IFG/IGT.
Diabetes incidence rates are high in Aboriginal people. The lifetime risk of developing diabetes among Aboriginal men is one in two, and among Aboriginal women is two in three. Baseline IFG, IGT and obesity are important predictors of diabetes.
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
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.
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.
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.
The global rise of Type 2 diabetes and its complications has drawn attention to the burden of non-communicable diseases on populations undergoing epidemiological transition. The life course approach of a birth cohort has the potential to increase our understanding of the development of these chronic diseases. In 1987 we sought to establish an Australian Indigenous birth cohort to be used as a resource for descriptive and analytical studies with particular attention on non-communicable diseases. The focus of this report is the methodology of recruiting and following-up an Aboriginal birth cohort of mobile subjects belonging to diverse cultural and language groups living in a large sparsely populated area in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia.
A prospective longitudinal study of Aboriginal singletons born at the Royal Darwin Hospital 1987–1990, with second wave cross-sectional follow-up examination of subjects 1998–2001 in over 70 different locations. A multiphase protocol was used to locate and collect data on 686 subjects with different approaches for urban and rural children. Manual chart audits, faxes to remote communities, death registries and a full time subject locator with past experience of Aboriginal communities were all used.
The successful recruitment of 686 Indigenous subjects followed up 14 years later with vital status determined for 95% of subjects and examination of 86% shows an Indigenous birth cohort can be established in an environment with geographic, cultural and climatic challenges. The high rates of recruitment and follow up indicate there were effective strategies of follow-up in a supportive population.
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.
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.
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.
Oral health impairment comprises three conceptual domains; pain, appearance and function. This study sought to: (1) estimate the prevalence of severe oral health impairment as assessed by a summary oral health impairment measure, including aspects of dental pain, dissatisfaction with dental appearance and difficulty eating, among a birth cohort of Indigenous Australian young adults (n = 442, age range 16-20 years); (2) compare prevalence according to demographic, socio-economic, behavioural, dental service utilisation and oral health outcome risk indicators; and (3) ascertain the independent contribution of those risk indicators to severe oral health impairment in this population.
Data were from the Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) study, a prospective longitudinal investigation of Aboriginal individuals born 1987-1990 at an Australian regional hospital. Data for this analysis pertained to Wave-3 of the study only. Severe oral health impairment was defined as reported experience of toothache, poor dental appearance and food avoidance in the last 12 months. Logistic regression models were used to evaluate effects of demographic, socio-economic, behavioural, dental service utilisation and clinical oral disease indicators on severe oral health impairment. Effects were quantified as odds ratios (OR).
The percent of participants with severe oral health impairment was 16.3 (95% CI 12.9-19.7). In the multivariate model, severe oral health impairment was associated with untreated dental decay (OR 4.0, 95% CI 1.6-9.6). In addition to that clinical indicator, greater odds of severe oral health impairment were associated with being female (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.2-3.6), being aged 19-20 years (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.2-3.6), soft drink consumption every day or a few days a week (OR 2.6, 95% 1.2-5.6) and non-ownership of a toothbrush (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1-3.4).
Severe oral health impairment was prevalent among this population. The findings suggest that public health strategies that address prevention and treatment of dental disease, self-regulation of soft drink consumption and ownership of oral self-care devices are needed if severe oral health impairment among Indigenous Australian young adults is to be reduced.
Aims: To document gastroenteritis hospitalisations of the 1995–96 cohort of infants born in Western Australia to mid-2002, and to assess factors associated with their hospitalisations and readmissions.
Methods: Retrospective analysis of the State's hospitalisation data, Midwives' Notification of Births data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics mortality data and clinical and demographic information.
Results: Aboriginal infants were hospitalised for gastroenteritis eight times more frequently than their non-Aboriginal peers, and were readmitted more frequently and sooner for diarrhoeal illnesses than the other group. They also stayed in hospital for twice as long and many Aboriginal patients were hospitalised on numerous occasions. Hospitalisation rates were higher in remote areas and were significantly associated with co-morbidities such as undernutrition, anaemia, co-existing infections, and intestinal carbohydrate intolerance.
Conclusions: Gastroenteritis is very prevalent in Australian Aboriginal infants and children and is a major cause of their hospitalisation in Western Australia. It is often associated with undernutrition, anaemia, intestinal parasitic infestations, other infections, intestinal carbohydrate intolerance, and, in some instances, with low birth weight. This is often due to unhygienic living conditions and behaviours and presents major challenges to public health, health promotion, and clinical personnel, particularly paediatric services. Childhood diarrhoeal diseases occur commonly in other indigenous groups but have not received the attention that they deserve.
Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes, and are 2.5 times more likely to die from cancer than non-Aboriginal people, even after adjustment for stage of diagnosis, cancer treatment and comorbidities. They are also less likely to present early as a result of symptoms and to access treatment. Psycho-social factors affect Aboriginal people's willingness and ability to participate in cancer-related screening and treatment services, but little exploration of this has occurred within Australia to date. The current research adopted a phenomenological qualitative approach to understand and explore the lived experiences of Aboriginal Australians with cancer and their beliefs and understanding around this disease in Western Australia (WA). This paper details considerations in the design and process of conducting the research.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for ethical conduct of Aboriginal research were followed. Researchers acknowledged the past negative experiences of Aboriginal people with research and were keen to build trust and relationships prior to conducting research with them. Thirty in-depth interviews with Aboriginal people affected by cancer and twenty with health service providers were carried out in urban, rural and remote areas of WA. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers. NVivo7 software was used to assist data management and analysis. Participants' narratives were divided into broad categories to allow identification of key themes and discussed by the research team.
Discussion and conclusion
Key issues specific to Aboriginal research include the need for the research process to be relationship-based, respectful, culturally appropriate and inclusive of Aboriginal people. Researchers are accountable to both participants and the wider community for reporting their findings and for research translation so that the research outcomes benefit the Aboriginal community. There are a number of factors that influence whether the desired level of engagement can be achieved in practice. These include the level of resourcing for the project and the researchers' efforts to ensure dissemination and research translation; and the capacity of the Aboriginal community to engage with research given other demands upon their time.
Information on health disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations is essential for developing public health programs aimed at reducing such disparities. The lack of data on disparities in birth outcomes between Inuit and non-Inuit populations in Canada prompted us to compare birth outcomes in Inuit-inhabited areas with those in the rest of the country and in other rural and northern areas of Canada.
We conducted a cohort study of all births in Canada during 1990–2000 using linked vital data. We identified 13 642 births to residents of Inuit-inhabited areas and 4 054 489 births to residents of all other areas. The primary outcome measures were preterm birth, stillbirth and infant death.
Compared with the rest of Canada, Inuit-inhabited areas had substantially higher rates of preterm birth (risk ratio [RR] 1.45, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.38–1.52), stillbirth (RR 1.68, 95% CI 1.38–2.04) and infant death (RR 3.61, 95% CI 3.17–4.12). The risk ratios and absolute differences in risk for these outcomes changed little over time. Excess mortality was observed for all major causes of infant death, including congenital anomalies (RR 1.64), immaturity-related conditions (RR 2.96), asphyxia (RR 2.43), sudden infant death syndrome (RR 7.15), infection (RR 8.32) and external causes (RR 7.30). Maternal characteristics accounted for only a small part of the risk disparities. Substantial risk ratios for preterm birth, stillbirth and infant death remained when the comparisons were restricted to other rural or northern areas of Canada.
The Inuit-inhabited areas had much higher rates of preterm birth, stillbirth and infant death compared with the rest of Canada and with other rural and northern areas. There is an urgent need for more effective interventions to improve maternal and infant health in Inuit-inhabited areas.
Australia is a wealthy developed country. However, there are significant disparities in health outcomes for Aboriginal infants compared with other Australian infants. Health outcomes tend to be worse for those living in remote areas. Little is known about the health service utilisation patterns of remote dwelling Aboriginal infants. This study describes health service utilisation patterns at the primary and referral level by remote dwelling Aboriginal infants from northern Australia.
Data on 413 infants were analysed. Following birth, one third of infants were admitted to the regional hospital neonatal nursery, primarily for preterm birth. Once home, most (98%) health service utilisation occurred at the remote primary health centre, infants presented to the centre about once a fortnight (mean 28 presentations per year, 95%CI 26.4-30.0). Half of the presentations were for new problems, most commonly for respiratory, skin and gastrointestinal symptoms. Remaining presentations were for reviews or routine health service provision. By one year of age 59% of infants were admitted to hospital at least once, the rate of hospitalisation per infant year was 1.1 (95%CI 0.9-1.2).
The hospitalisation rate is high and admissions commence early in life, visits to the remote primary health centre are frequent. Half of all presentations are for new problems. These findings have important implications for health service planning and delivery to remote dwelling Aboriginal families.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher rates of obesity, chronic disease, and are less active than non-Indigenous Australian women. Lifestyle programs designed to increase physical activity and encourage healthy eating are needed to ameliorate this disparity. The aim of this study was to identify participants’ perceived barriers and enablers to attend group exercise classes as part of a 12-week fitness program.
To understand the factors that influence attendance, a mixed method process evaluation was undertaken in which a quantitative measure of attendance in the group exercise classes was used to identify cases for further qualitative investigation. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women aged 18 to 64 years were recruited to a research trial of a fitness program. The 12-week program included two 60-minute group exercise classes per week, and four nutrition education workshops. Semi-structured interviews were conducted at program completion. Participants were stratified by attendance, and interviews from the highest and lowest 25 percentiles analysed. Rigour was strengthened through use of multiple data analysts, member checking and prolonged engagement in the field.
Analyses of the post-program interviews revealed that participants enrolled in the program primarily for the perceived health benefits and all (with one exception) found the program met their needs and expectations. The atmosphere of classes was positive and comfortable and they reported developing good relationships with their fellow participants and program staff. Low attendees described more barriers to attendance, such as illness and competing work and family obligations, and were more likely to report logistical issues, such as inconvenient venue or class times.
Attendance to the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Fitness Program’ was primarily influenced by the participant’s personal health, logistics and competing obligations. Low attendees reported more barriers during the 12-week period and identified fewer enabling factors than high attendees.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000224022
Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Physical activity; Women; Lifestyle program; Health promotion; Barriers; Facilitators; Participation
Lifetime risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is an important yardstick by which policy makers, clinicians and the general public can assess and promote the awareness and prevention of CHD. The lifetime risk in Aboriginal people is not known. Using a cohort with up to 20 years of follow-up, we estimated the lifetime risk of CHD in Aboriginal people.
A cohort study.
A remote Aboriginal region.
1115 Aboriginal people from one remote tribal group who were free from CHD at baseline were followed for up to 20 years.
Main outcome measures
During the follow-up period, new CHD incident cases were identified through hospital and death records. We estimated the lifetime risks of CHD with and without adjusting for the presence of competing risk of death from non-CHD causes.
Participants were followed up for 17 126 person-years, during which 185 developed CHD and 144 died from non-CHD causes. The average age at which the first CHD event occurred was 48 years for men and 49 years for women. The risk of developing CHD increased with age until 60 years and then decreased with age. Lifetime cumulative risk without adjusting for competing risk was 70.7% for men and 63.8% for women. Adjusting for the presence of competing risk of death from non-CHD causes, the lifetime risk of CHD was 52.6% for men and 49.2% for women.
Lifetime risk of CHD is as high as one in two in both Aboriginal men and women. The average age of having first CHD events was under 50 years, much younger than that reported in non-Aboriginal populations. Our data provide useful knowledge for health education, screening and prevention of CHD in Aboriginal people.
Epidemiology; Public Health
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.
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.
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.
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.
Middle ear disease (otitis media) is common and frequently severe in Australian Aboriginal children. There have not been any recent large-scale surveys using clear definitions and a standardised middle ear assessment. The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of middle ear disease (otitis media) in a high-risk population of young Aboriginal children from remote communities in Northern and Central Australia.
709 Aboriginal children aged 6–30 months living in 29 communities from 4 health regions participated in the study between May and November 2001. Otitis media (OM) and perforation of the tympanic membrane (TM) were diagnosed by tympanometry, pneumatic otoscopy, and video-otoscopy. We used otoscopic criteria (bulging TM or recent perforation) to diagnose acute otitis media.
914 children were eligible to participate in the study and 709 were assessed (78%). Otitis media affected nearly all children (91%, 95%CI 88, 94). Overall prevalence estimates adjusted for clustering by community were: 10% (95%CI 8, 12) for unilateral otitis media with effusion (OME); 31% (95%CI 27, 34) for bilateral OME; 26% (95%CI 23, 30) for acute otitis media without perforation (AOM/woP); 7% (95%CI 4, 9) for AOM with perforation (AOM/wiP); 2% (95%CI 1, 3) for dry perforation; and 15% (95%CI 11, 19) for chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM). The perforation prevalence ranged from 0–60% between communities and from 19–33% between regions. Perforations of the tympanic membrane affected 40% of children in their first 18 months of life. These were not always persistent.
Overall, 1 in every 2 children examined had otoscopic signs consistent with suppurative ear disease and 1 in 4 children had a perforated tympanic membrane. Some of the children with intact tympanic membranes had experienced a perforation that healed before the survey. In this high-risk population, high rates of tympanic perforation were associated with high rates of bulging of the tympanic membrane.
This study investigates the relationships between health and lifestyle factors, age and private health insurance (PHI) in a large Australian population-based cohort study of people aged 45 years and over; the 45 and Up Study. Unlike previous Australian analyses of relationships between health, lifestyle and PHI, it incorporates adjustment for multiple confounding socioeconomic and demographic factors. Recruitment into the 45 and Up Study began in February 2006 and these analyses relate to the first 103,042 participants who joined the study prior to July 2008.
The proportion with PHI decreased with increasing age. The factors independently and most strongly associated with having PHI were: higher income; higher educational attainment; not holding a health care concession card; not being of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander origin; being a non-smoker; high levels of self-rated health and functional capacity; and low levels of psychological distress. These factors increased the probability of having PHI by 16% to 125%, compared to individuals without these characteristics. PHI coverage was significantly but only marginally higher in people reporting non-melanoma skin cancer (adjusted RR 1.04, 95%CI 1.03–1.05), prostate cancer (1.09, 1.06–1.11) or an enlarged prostate (1.07, 1.06–1.09), those reporting a family history of a range of conditions (e.g. 1.02, 1.01–1.03 for a family history of heart disease; 1.03, 1.02–1.04 for a family history of prostate cancer) and lower in people reporting diabetes (0.92, 0.91–0.94) or stroke (0.91, 0.88–0.94), compared to people who did not have these medical or family histories. PHI was higher in those reporting certain surgical procedures with RRs (95%CI) of 1.12 (1.09–1.15) for hip replacement, 1.10 (1.08–1.13) for knee replacement and 1.12 (1.09–1.15) for prostatectomy, compared to those not reporting these interventions.
Compared to the rest of the study population, those with PHI are richer, better educated, more health conscious, in better health and more likely to use certain discretionary health services. Hence, PHI use is generally highest among those with the least need for health care. Whether or not people have PHI is more strongly associated with demographic and lifestyle factors than with health status.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hospital performance; Acute myocardial infarction; Ischaemic heart disease; Aboriginal health; Health outcomes; Multilevel modelling; Data linkage
A linked data file of birth records and hospital admissions was used to investigate inpatient hospital morbidity before 2 years of age for all non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children born in Western Australia in 1986. Of the non-Aboriginal children, 31.8% were admitted to hospital at least once before the age of 2 years, with an overall admission rate of 526/1000 live births; the corresponding figures for Aboriginal children were 68.7% and 2797. The mean number of days in hospital for each non-Aboriginal child admitted was 7.4, and 26.5 for Aboriginal children. Of the total cohort, 21% of non-Aboriginal and 20% of Aboriginal children were admitted only once, and 4% of non-Aboriginal and 36% of Aboriginal children were admitted at least three times; 23% of non-Aboriginal and 24% of Aboriginal children were admitted for only one major disease category, and 1% of non-Aboriginal and 16% of Aboriginal children were in at least four categories. The highest admission rates and highest percentages of the cohort admitted were for gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases and social admissions. These results illustrate the importance for both descriptive and analytical research of relating admissions to hospital for the total population to the individual child, and of using clinically relevant disease classifications.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the single greatest contributor to the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Our objective is to determine if holistic CVD risk assessment, introduced as part of the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adult Health Check (AHC), results in better identification of elevated CVD risk, improved delivery of preventive care for CVD and improvements in the CVD risk profile for Aboriginal adults in a remote community.
Interrupted time series study over six years in a remote primary health care (PHC) service involving Aboriginal adults identified with elevated CVD risk (N = 64). Several process and outcome measures were audited at 6 monthly intervals for three years prior to the AHC (the intervention) and three years following: (i) the proportion of guideline scheduled CVD preventive care services delivered, (ii) mean CVD medications prescribed and dispensed, (iii) mean PHC consultations, (iv) changes in participants' CVD risk factors and estimated absolute CVD risk and (v) mean number of CVD events and iatrogenic events.
Twenty-five percent of AHC participants were identified as having elevated CVD risk. Of these, 84% had not been previously identified during routine care. Following the intervention, there were significant improvements in the recorded delivery of preventive care services for CVD (30% to 53%), and prescription of CVD related medications (28% to 89%) (P < 0.001). Amongst participants there was a 20% relative reduction in estimated absolute CVD risk (P = 0.004) following the intervention. However, there were no significant changes in the mean number of PHC consultations or mean number of CVD events or iatrogenic events.
Holistic CVD risk assessment during an AHC can lead to better and earlier identification of elevated CVD risk, improvement in the recorded delivery of preventive care services for CVD, intensification of treatment for CVD, and improvements in participants' CVD risk profile. Further research is required on strategies to reorient and restructure PHC services to the care of chronic illness for Aboriginal peoples in remote areas for there to be substantial progress in decreasing excess CVD related mortality.
This article outlines the meaningful participation of eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members employed as community researchers investigating the impact of pandemic influenza in rural and remote Indigenous communities in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation is now a requirement of health research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There is a growing literature on the different approaches to such involvement. Fundamental to this literature is an acknowledgement that Indigenous communities are no longer prepared to be research objects for external, mostly non-Indigenous researchers, and demand a role in decisions about what is researched and how it will be researched. In this paper, we describe the protracted process for site identification and recruitment and training of community researchers. We focus on the backgrounds of the Indigenous researchers and their motivations for involvement, and the strengths and challenges posed by Indigenous people researching in their own communities. Throughout the paper our concern is to document how genuine participation and the building of research capacity can occur.
A key feature of the research was the employment, training and strengthening the capacity of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in the role of community researchers. A series of training workshops were conducted in northern Australia and focussed on qualitative research methods, including data collection, data analysis and writing. The Indigenous researchers collected the community-based data, and worked in partnership with experienced academic researchers in the analysis and compilation of community reports. Parts of those community reports, as well as additional information supplied by the community researchers, forms the basis of this article. As the demand increases for involvement of Indigenous community members as researchers, focus needs to be paid to what constitutes meaningful participation. If active participation in all aspects of the research process is intended, this necessitates close attention to the knowledge and skills required for this to occur at every stage. Building research capacity means not simply equipping local people to undertake research on a particular project, but to have the knowledge and skills to undertake research in other areas.
There are considerable benefits for Indigenous people researching in their own communities. Most important for the community researchers on this project was the sense that they were doing important health work, not just conducting research. Given the persistent gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health, this is perhaps one of the most important contributions of this type of research. Whilst research outcomes are undoubtedly important, in many cases the process used is of greater importance.
Indigenous; Participatory action research; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Participation
The objective was to assess trends in Inuit, First Nations and non-Aboriginal birth outcomes in the rural and northern regions of Quebec.
Study design and methods
In a birth cohort-based study of all births to residents of rural and northern Quebec from 1991 through 2000 (n = 177,193), we analyzed birth outcomes and infant mortality for births classified by maternal mother tongue (Inuit, First Nations or non-Aboriginal) and by community type (predominantly First Nations, Inuit or non-Aboriginal).
From 1991–1995 to 1996–2000, there was a trend of increasing rates of preterm birth for all 6 study groups. In all rural and northern areas, low birth weight rates increased significantly only for the Inuit mother tongue group [RR1.45 (95% CI 1.05–2.01)]. Stillbirth rates showed a non-significant increase for the Inuit mother tongue group [RR1.76 (0.64–4.83)]. Neonatal mortality rates decreased significantly in the predominantly non-Aboriginal communities and in the non-Aboriginal mother tongue group [RR0.78 (0.66–0.92)], and increased non-significantly for the First Nations mother tongue group [RR2.17 (0.71–6.62)]. Perinatal death rates increased for the First Nations mother tongue grouping in northern areas [RR2.19 (0.99–4.85)].
There was a disconcerting rise of some mortality outcomes for births to First Nations and Inuit mother tongue women and to women in predominantly First Nations and Inuit communities, in contrast to some improvements for births to non-Aboriginal mother tongue women and to women in predominantly non-Aboriginal communities in rural or northern Quebec, indicating a need for improving perinatal and neonatal health for Aboriginal populations in rural and northern regions.
Aboriginal health; trends; preterm birth; perinatal mortality; infant mortality
Compared to other Australian women, Indigenous women are frequently at greater risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. We examined pre-pregnancy factors that may predict hypertension in pregnancy in a cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in north Queensland.
Data on a cohort of 1009 Indigenous women of childbearing age (15–44 years) who participated in a 1998–2000 health screening program in north Queensland were combined with 1998–2008 Queensland hospitalisations data using probabilistic data linkage. Data on the women in the cohort who were hospitalised for birth (n = 220) were further combined with Queensland perinatal data which identified those diagnosed with hypertension in pregnancy.
Of 220 women who gave birth, 22 had hypertension in the pregnancy after their health check. The mean age of women with and without hypertension was similar (23.7 years and 23.9 years respectively) however Aboriginal women were more affected compared to Torres Strait Islanders. Pre-pregnancy adiposity and elevated blood pressure at the health screening program were predictors of a pregnancy affected by hypertension. After adjusting for age and ethnicity, each 1 cm increase in waist circumference showed a 4% increased risk for hypertension in pregnancy (PR 1.04; 95% CI; 1.02-1.06); each 1 point increase in BMI showed a 9% adjusted increase in risk (1.09; 1.04-1.14). For each 1 mmHg increase in baseline systolic blood pressure there was an age and ethnicity adjusted 6% increase in risk and each 1 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure showed a 7% increase in risk (1.06; 1.03-1.09 and 1.07; 1.03-1.11 respectively). Among those free of diabetes at baseline, the presence of the metabolic syndrome (International Diabetes Federation criteria) predicted over a three-fold increase in age-ethnicity-adjusted risk (3.5; 1.50-8.17).
Pre-pregnancy adiposity and features of the metabolic syndrome among these young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women track strongly to increased risk of hypertension in pregnancy with associated risks to the health of babies.
Indigenous; Pre-pregnancy; Hypertension; Preeclampsia
Despite clear evidence regarding how social determinants of health and structural inequities shape health, Aboriginal women’s birth outcomes are not adequately understood as arising from the historical, economic and social circumstances of their lives. The purpose of this study was to understand rural Aboriginal women’s experiences of maternity care and factors shaping those experiences.
Aboriginal women from the Nuxalk, Haida and 'Namgis First Nations and academics from the University of British Columbia in nursing, medicine and counselling psychology used ethnographic methods within a participatory action research framework. We interviewed over 100 women, and involved additional community members through interviews and community meetings. Data were analyzed within each community and across communities.
Most participants described distressing experiences during pregnancy and birthing as they grappled with diminishing local maternity care choices, racism and challenging economic circumstances. Rural Aboriginal women’s birthing experiences are shaped by the intersections among rural circumstances, the effects of historical and ongoing colonization, and concurrent efforts toward self-determination and more vibrant cultures and communities.
Women’s experiences and birth outcomes could be significantly improved if health care providers learned about and accounted for Aboriginal people’s varied encounters with historical and ongoing colonization that unequivocally shapes health and health care. Practitioners who better understand Aboriginal women’s birth outcomes in context can better care in every interaction, particularly by enhancing women’s power, choice, and control over their experiences. Efforts to improve maternity care that account for the social and historical production of health inequities are crucial.
Aboriginal; Rural; Maternity care; Outcomes; Colonialism; Critical ethnography
Indigenous populations of Australia and Canada experience disproportionately high rates of chronic disease. Our goal was to compare cardiovascular (CVD) risk profile and diabetes complications from three recent comprehensive studies of diabetes complications in different Indigenous populations in Australia and Canada.
We compared participants from three recent studies: remote Indigenous Australians (2002-2003, n = 37 known diabetes), urban Indigenous Australians (2003-2005, n = 99 known diabetes), and remote Aboriginal Canadians (2001-2002, n = 188 known diabetes).
The three groups were similar for HbA1c, systolic BP, diabetes duration. Although leaner by body-mass-index criteria, remote Indigenous Australians displayed a more adverse CVD risk profile with respect to: waist-hip-ratio (1.03, 0.99, 0.94, remote Indigenous Australians, urban Indigenous Australians, remote Canadians, p < 0.001); HDL-cholesterol (0.82, 0.96, 1.17 mmol/L, p < 0.001); urine albumin-creatinine-ratio (10.3, 2.4, 4.5 mg/mmol); and C-reactive protein. With respect to diabetes complications, microalbuminuria (50%, 25%, 41%, p = 0.001) was more common among both remote groups than urban Indigenous Australians, but there were no differences for peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy or peripheral vascular disease.
Although there are many similarities in diabetes phenotype in Indigenous populations, this comparison demonstrates that CVD risk profiles and diabetes complications may differ among groups. Irrespective, management and intervention strategies are required from a young age in Indigenous populations and need to be designed in consultation with communities and tailored to community and individual needs.
Aboriginal; Retinopathy; Albuminuria; Peripheral neuropathy; Perhipheral vascular disease
Indigenous Australians have an incidence of end stage kidney disease 8-10 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians. The majority of research studies concerning Indigenous Australians have been performed in rural or remote regions, whilst the majority of Indigenous Australians actually live in urban settings. We studied prevalence and factors associated with markers of kidney disease in an urban Indigenous Australian cohort, and compared results with those for the general Australian population.
860 Indigenous adult participants of the Darwin Region Urban Indigenous Diabetes (DRUID) Study were assessed for albuminuria (urine albumin-creatinine ratio≥2.5 mg/mmol males, ≥3.5 mg/mmol females) and low eGFR (estimated glomular filtration rate < 60 mls/min/1.73 m2). Associations between risk factors and kidney disease markers were explored. Comparison was made with the AusDiab cohort (n = 8,936 aged 25-64 years), representative of the general Australian adult population.
A high prevalence of albuminuria (14.8%) was found in DRUID, whilst prevalence of low eGFR was 2.4%. Older age, higher HbA1c, hypertension, higher C-reactive protein and current smoking were independently associated with albuminuria on multiple regression. Low eGFR was independently associated with older age, hypertension, albuminuria and higher triglycerides. Compared to AusDiab participants, DRUID participants had a 3-fold higher adjusted risk of albuminuria but not of low eGFR.
Given the significant excess of ESKD observed in Indigenous versus non-Indigenous Australians, these findings could suggest either: albuminuria may be a better prognostic marker of kidney disease than low eGFR; that eGFR equations may be inaccurate in the Indigenous population; a less marked differential between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for ESKD rates in urban compared to remote regions; or that differences in the pathophysiology of chronic kidney disease exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.