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.
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.
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.
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.
Palliative care; End of life care; Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cultural safety; Australia
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aboriginal Australian children experience profound oral health disparities relative to their non-Aboriginal counterparts. In response to community concerns regarding Aboriginal child oral health in the regional town of Port Augusta, South Australia, a child dental health service was established within a Community Controlled Aboriginal Health Service. A partnership approach was employed with the key aims of (1) quantifying rates of dental service utilisation, (2) identifying factors influencing participation, and (3) planning and establishing a program for delivery of Aboriginal children's dental services that would increase participation and adapt to community needs. In planning the program, levels of participation were quantified and key issues identified through semistructured interviews. After 3.5 years, the participation rate for dental care among the target population increased from 53 to 70 percent. Key areas were identified to encourage further improvements and ensure sustainability in Aboriginal child oral health in this regional location.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Health care utilisation; Facilitators/barriers to care; Cardiovascular disease; Indigenous; Aboriginal
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aboriginal people, Australia; Health care professionals; Tobacco and health; Smoking cessation; Qualitative research
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
Australian Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders (Indigenous Australians) smoke at much higher rates than non-Indigenous people and smoking is an important contributor to increased disease, hospital admissions and deaths in Indigenous Australian populations. Smoking cessation programs in Australia have not had the same impact on Indigenous smokers as on non-Indigenous smokers. This paper describes the protocol for a study that aims to test the efficacy of a locally-tailored, intensive, multidimensional smoking cessation program.
This study is a parallel, randomised, controlled trial. Participants are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers aged 16 years and over, who are randomly allocated to a 'control' or 'intervention' group in a 2:1 ratio. Those assigned to the 'intervention' group receive smoking cessation counselling at face-to-face visits, weekly for the first four weeks, monthly to six months and two monthly to 12 months. They are also encouraged to attend a monthly smoking cessation support group. The 'control' group receive 'usual care' (i.e. they do not receive the smoking cessation program). Aboriginal researchers deliver the intervention, the goal of which is to help Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders quit smoking. Data collection occurs at baseline (when they enrol) and at six and 12 months after enrolling. The primary outcome is self-reported smoking cessation with urinary cotinine confirmation at 12 months.
Stopping smoking has been described as the single most important individual change Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers could make to improve their health. Smoking cessation programs are a major priority in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and evidence for effective approaches is essential for policy development and resourcing. A range of strategies have been used to encourage Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders to quit smoking however there have been few good quality studies that show what approaches work best. More evidence of strategies that could work more widely in Indigenous primary health care settings is needed if effective policy is to be developed and implemented. Our project will make an important contribution in this area.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12608000604303)
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Randomised controlled trial; Smoking cessation; Study protocol; Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) Study
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.
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.
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.
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.
Achieving culturally fair assessments of cognitive functioning for Aboriginal people is difficult due to a scarcity of appropriately validated tools for use with this group. As a result, some Aboriginal people with cognitive impairments may lack fair and equitable access to services. The objective of this study was to examine current clinical practice in the Northern Territory regarding cognitive assessment for Aboriginal people thereby providing some guidance for clinicians new to this practice setting.
Qualitative enquiry was used to describe practice context, reasons for assessment, and current practices in assessing cognition for Aboriginal Australians. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 clinicians working with Aboriginal clients in central and northern Australia. Results pertaining to assessment methods are reported.
A range of standardised tests were utilised with little consistency across clinical practice. Nevertheless, it was recognised that such tests bear severe limitations, requiring some modification and significant caution in their interpretation. Clinicians relied heavily on informal assessment or observations, contextual information and clinical judgement.
Cognitive tests developed specifically for Aboriginal people are urgently needed. In the absence of appropriate, validated tests, clinicians have relied on and modified a range of standardised and informal assessments, whilst recognising the severe limitations of these. Past clinical training has not prepared clinicians adequately for assessing Aboriginal clients, and experience and clinical judgment were considered crucial for fair interpretation of test scores. Interpretation guidelines may assist inexperienced clinicians to consider whether they are achieving fair assessments of cognition for Aboriginal clients.
Cognition; Assessment; Cross-cultural; Testing; Indigenous; Aboriginal
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.
Ethnic disparities in access to health care and health outcomes are well documented. It is unclear whether similar differences exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease in Canada. We determined whether access to care differed between status Aboriginal people (Aboriginal people registered under the federal Indian Act) and non-Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease.
We identified 106 511 non-Aboriginal and 1182 Aboriginal patients with chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate less than 60 mL/min/1.73 m2). We compared outcomes, including hospital admissions, that may have been preventable with appropriate outpatient care (ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions) as well as use of specialist services, including visits to nephrologists and general internists.
Aboriginal people were almost twice as likely as non-Aboriginal people to be admitted to hospital for an ambulatory-care–sensitive condition (rate ratio 1.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.46–2.13). Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate < 30 mL/min/1.73 m2) were 43% less likely than non-Aboriginal people with severe chronic kidney disease to visit a nephrologist (hazard ratio 0.57, 95% CI 0.39–0.83). There was no difference in the likelihood of visiting a general internist (hazard ratio 1.00, 95% CI 0.83–1.21).
Increased rates of hospital admissions for ambulatory-care–sensitive conditions and a reduced likelihood of nephrology visits suggest potential inequities in care among status Aboriginal people with chronic kidney disease. The extent to which this may contribute to the higher rate of kidney failure in this population requires further exploration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Despite large disparities in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, detailed evidence on the health and lifestyle characteristics of older Aboriginal Australians is lacking. The aim of this study is to quantify socio-demographic and health risk factors and mental and physical health status among Aboriginal participants from the 45 and Up Study and to compare these with non-Aboriginal participants from the study.
The 45 and Up Study is a large-scale study of individuals aged 45 years and older from the general population of New South Wales, Australia responding to a baseline questionnaire distributed from 2006–2008. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of self-reported responses from the baseline questionnaire for Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal participants relating to socio-demographic factors, health risk factors, current and past medical and surgical history, physical disability, functional health limitations and levels of current psychological distress were calculated using unconditional logistic regression, with adjustments for age and sex.
Overall, 1939 of 266,661 45 and Up Study participants examined in this study identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (0.7%). Compared to non-Aboriginal participants, Aboriginal participants were significantly more likely to be: younger (mean age 58 versus 63 years); without formal educational qualifications (age- and sex- adjusted OR = 6.2, 95% CI 5.3-7.3); of unemployed (3.7, 2.9-4.6) or disabled (4.6, 3.9-5.3) work status; and with a household income < $20,000/year versus ≥ $70,000/year (5.8, 5.0-6.9). Following additional adjustment for income and education, Aboriginal participants were significantly more likely than non-Aboriginal participants to: be current smokers (2.4, 2.0-2.8), be obese (2.1, 1.8-2.5), have ever been diagnosed with certain medical conditions (especially: diabetes [2.1, 1.8-2.4]; depression [1.6, 1.4-1.8] and stroke [1.8, 1.4-2.3]), have care-giving responsibilities (1.8, 1.5-2.2); have a major physical disability (2.6, 2.2-3.1); have severe physical functional limitation (2.9, 2.4-3.4) and have very high levels of psychological distress (2.4, 2.0-3.0).
Aboriginal participants from the 45 and Up Study experience greater levels of disadvantage and have greater health needs (including physical disability and psychological distress) compared to non-Aboriginal participants. The study highlights the need to address the social determinants of health in Australia and to provide appropriate mental health services and disability support for older Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal Australians; Torres Strait Islanders; 45 and Up study
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.
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.
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.
Antenatal care; Health inequalities; Indigenous health; Maternal health; Participatory research; Perinatal health outcomes
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Discharge against medical advice; Aboriginal health; Ischaemic Heart Disease; Linked data; Australia
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether Canadian family medicine residency programs currently have objectives, staff, and clinical experiences for adequately exposing residents to aboriginal health issues. DESIGN: A one-page questionnaire was developed to survey the details of teaching about and exposure to aboriginal health issues. SETTING: Family medicine programs in Canada. PARTICIPANTS: All Canadian family medicine program directors in the 18 programs (16 at universities and two satellite programs) were surveyed between October 1997 and March 1998. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Whether programs had teaching objectives for exposing residents to aboriginal health issues, whether they had resource people available, what elective and core experiences in aboriginal health were offered, and what types of experiences were available. RESULTS: Response rate was 100%. No programs had formal, written curriculum objectives for residency training in aboriginal health issues, although some were considering them. Some programs, however, had objectives for specific weekend or day sessions. No programs had a strategy for encouraging enrollment of residents of aboriginal origin. Eleven programs had at least one resource person with experience in aboriginal health issues, and 12 had access to community-based aboriginal groups. Core experiences were all weekend seminars or retreats. Elective experiences in aboriginal health were available in 16 programs, and 11 programs were active on reserves. CONCLUSIONS: Many Canadian family medicine programs give residents some exposure to aboriginal health issues, but most need more expertise and direction on these issues. Some programs have unique approaches to teaching aboriginal health care that could be shared. Formalized objectives derived in collaboration with other family medicine programs and aboriginal groups could substantially improve the quality of education in aboriginal health care in Canada.
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.
Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is a widespread problem in Australian Aboriginal communities causing severe pain and sepsis. In addition dental services are difficult to access for many Aboriginal children and trying to obtain care can be stressful for the parents. The control of dental caries has been identified as a key indictor in the reduction of Indigenous disadvantage. Thus, there is a need for new approaches to prevent ECC, which reflect the cultural norms of Aboriginal communities.
This is a Phase II single arm trial designed to gather information on the effectiveness of a dental health education program for Aboriginal children aged 6 months, followed over 2 years. The program will deliver advice from Aboriginal Health Workers on tooth brushing, diet and the use of fluoride toothpaste to Aboriginal families. Six waves of data collection will be conducted to enable estimates of change in parental knowledge and their views on the acceptability of the program. The Aboriginal Health Workers will also be interviewed to record their views on the acceptability and program feasibility. Clinical data on the child participants will be recorded when they are 30 months old and compared with a reference population of similar children when the study began. Latent variable modeling will be used to interpret the intervention effects on disease outcome.
The research project will identify barriers to the implementation of a family centered Aboriginal oral health strategy, as well as the development of evidence to assist in the planning of a Phase III cluster randomized study.
Oral health; Aboriginal families; Health promotion
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.