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1.  An oral health literacy intervention for Indigenous adults in a rural setting in Australia 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:461.
Background
Indigenous Australians suffer substantially poorer oral health than their non-Indigenous counterparts and new approaches are needed to address these disparities. Previous work in Port Augusta, South Australia, a regional town with a large Indigenous community, revealed associations between low oral health literacy scores and self-reported oral health outcomes. This study aims to determine if implementation of a functional, context-specific oral health literacy intervention improves oral health literacy-related outcomes measured by use of dental services, and assessment of oral health knowledge, oral health self-care and oral health- related self-efficacy.
Methods/design
This is a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that utilises a delayed intervention design. Participants are Indigenous adults, aged 18 years and older, who plan to reside in Port Augusta or a nearby community for the next two years. The intervention group will receive the intervention from the outset of the study while the control group will be offered the intervention 12 months following their enrolment in the study. The intervention consists of a series of five culturally sensitive, oral health education workshops delivered over a 12 month period by Indigenous project officers. Workshops consist of presentations, hands-on activities, interactive displays, group discussions and role plays. The themes addressed in the workshops are underpinned by oral health literacy concepts, and incorporate oral health-related self-efficacy, oral health-related fatalism, oral health knowledge, access to dental care and rights and entitlements as a patient. Data will be collected through a self-report questionnaire at baseline, at 12 months and at 24 months. The primary outcome measure is oral health literacy. Secondary outcome measures include oral health knowledge, oral health self-care, use of dental services, oral health-related self-efficacy and oral health-related fatalism.
Discussion
This study uses a functional, context-specific oral health literacy intervention to improve oral health literacy-related outcomes amongst rural-dwelling Indigenous adults. Outcomes of this study will have implications for policy and planning by providing evidence for the effectiveness of such interventions as well as provide a model for working with Indigenous communities.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-461
PMCID: PMC3416720  PMID: 22716205
2.  A phase II clinical trial of a dental health education program delivered by aboriginal health workers to prevent early childhood caries 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:681.
Background
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.
Methods/Design
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.
Discussion
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.
Trial registration
ACTRN12612000712808
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-681
PMCID: PMC3520707  PMID: 22909327
Oral health; Aboriginal families; Health promotion
3.  ‘Doing the hard yards’: carer and provider focus group perspectives of accessing Aboriginal childhood disability services 
Background
Despite a high prevalence of disability, Aboriginal Australians access disability services in Australia less than non-Aboriginal Australians with a disability. The needs of Aboriginal children with disability are particularly poorly understood. They can endure long delays in treatment which can impact adversely on development. This study sought to ascertain the factors involved in accessing services and support for Aboriginal children with a disability.
Methods
Using the focus group method, two community forums, one for health and service providers and one for carers of Aboriginal children with a disability, were held at an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) in the Sydney, metropolitan area of New South Wales, Australia. Framework analysis was applied to qualitative data to elucidate key issues relevant to the dimensions of access framework. Independent coding consistency checks were performed and consensus of analysis verified by the entire research team, several of whom represented the local Aboriginal community.
Results
Seventeen health and social service providers representing local area government and non-government-funded health and social service organisations and five carers participated in two separate forums between September and October 2011. Lack of awareness of services and inadequate availability were prominent concerns in both groups despite geographic proximity to a major metropolitan area with significant health infrastructure. Carers noted racism, insufficient or non-existent services, and the need for an enhanced role of ACCHSs and AHWs in disability support services. Providers highlighted logistical barriers and cultural and historical issues that impacted on the effectiveness of mainstream services for Aboriginal people.
Conclusions
Despite dedicated disability services in an urban community, geographic proximity does not mitigate lack of awareness and availability of support. This paper has enumerated a number of considerations to address provision of disability services in an urban Australian Aboriginal community including building expertise and specialist capacity within Aboriginal Health Worker positions and services.
Increasing awareness of services, facilitating linkages and referrals, eliminating complexities to accessing support, and working with families and Aboriginal community organisations within a framework of resilience and empowerment to ensure a relevant and acceptable model are necessary steps to improving support and care for Aboriginal children with a disability.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-326
PMCID: PMC3765087  PMID: 23958272
Childhood disability; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; Early intervention; Focus groups
4.  Aboriginal Health Workers experience multilevel barriers to quitting smoking: a qualitative study 
Introduction
Long-term measures to reduce tobacco consumption in Australia have had differential effects in the population. The prevalence of smoking in Aboriginal peoples is currently more than double that of the non-Aboriginal population. Aboriginal Health Workers are responsible for providing primary health care to Aboriginal clients including smoking cessation programs. However, Aboriginal Health Workers are frequently smokers themselves, and their smoking undermines the smoking cessation services they deliver to Aboriginal clients. An understanding of the barriers to quitting smoking experienced by Aboriginal Health Workers is needed to design culturally relevant smoking cessation programs. Once smoking is reduced in Aboriginal Health Workers, they may then be able to support Aboriginal clients to quit smoking.
Methods
We undertook a fundamental qualitative description study underpinned by social ecological theory. The research was participatory, and academic researchers worked in partnership with personnel from the local Aboriginal health council. The barriers Aboriginal Health Workers experience in relation to quitting smoking were explored in 34 semi-structured interviews (with 23 Aboriginal Health Workers and 11 other health staff) and 3 focus groups (n = 17 participants) with key informants. Content analysis was performed on transcribed text and interview notes.
Results
Aboriginal Health Workers spoke of burdensome stress and grief which made them unable to prioritise quitting smoking. They lacked knowledge about quitting and access to culturally relevant quitting resources. Interpersonal obstacles included a social pressure to smoke, social exclusion when quitting, and few role models. In many workplaces, smoking was part of organisational culture and there were challenges to implementation of Smokefree policy. Respondents identified inadequate funding of tobacco programs and a lack of Smokefree public spaces as policy level barriers. The normalisation of smoking in Aboriginal society was an overarching challenge to quitting.
Conclusions
Aboriginal Health Workers experience multilevel barriers to quitting smoking that include personal, social, cultural and environmental factors. Multidimensional smoking cessation programs are needed that reduce the stress and burden for Aboriginal Health Workers; provide access to culturally relevant quitting resources; and address the prevailing normalisation of smoking in the family, workplace and community.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-11-27
PMCID: PMC3477099  PMID: 22621767
Aboriginal people, Australia; Health care professionals; Tobacco and health; Smoking cessation; Qualitative research
5.  Identifying barriers and improving communication between cancer service providers and Aboriginal patients and their families: the perspective of service providers 
Background
Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes from cancer compared to the non-Aboriginal population. Some progress has been made in understanding Aboriginal Australians’ perspectives about cancer and their experiences with cancer services. However, little is known of cancer service providers’ (CSPs) thoughts and perceptions regarding Aboriginal patients and their experiences providing optimal cancer care to Aboriginal people. Communication between Aboriginal patients and non-Aboriginal health service providers has been identified as an impediment to good Aboriginal health outcomes. This paper reports on CSPs’ views about the factors impairing communication and offers practical strategies for promoting effective communication with Aboriginal patients in Western Australia (WA).
Methods
A qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with 62 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal CSPs from across WA was conducted between March 2006 - September 2007 and April-October 2011. CSPs were asked to share their experiences with Aboriginal patients and families experiencing cancer. Thematic analysis was carried out. Our analysis was primarily underpinned by the socio-ecological model, but concepts of Whiteness and privilege, and cultural security also guided our analysis.
Results
CSPs’ lack of knowledge about the needs of Aboriginal people with cancer and Aboriginal patients’ limited understanding of the Western medical system were identified as the two major impediments to communication. For effective patient–provider communication, attention is needed to language, communication style, knowledge and use of medical terminology and cross-cultural differences in the concept of time. Aboriginal marginalization within mainstream society and Aboriginal people’s distrust of the health system were also key issues impacting on communication. Potential solutions to effective Aboriginal patient-provider communication included recruiting more Aboriginal staff, providing appropriate cultural training for CSPs, cancer education for Aboriginal stakeholders, continuity of care, avoiding use of medical jargon, accommodating patients’ psychosocial and logistical needs, and in-service coordination.
Conclusion
Individual CSPs identified challenges in cross-cultural communication and their willingness to accommodate culture-specific needs within the wider health care system including better communication with Aboriginal patients. However, participants’ comments indicated a lack of concerted effort at the system level to address Aboriginal disadvantage in cancer outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-460
PMCID: PMC3835135  PMID: 24188503
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cancer; Communication; Health service provider; Cancer service provider
6.  Factors influencing health care utilisation among Aboriginal cardiac patients in central Australia: a qualitative study 
Background
Aboriginal Australians suffer from poorer overall health compared to the general Australian population, particularly in terms of cardiovascular disease and prognosis following a cardiac event. Despite such disparities, Aboriginal Australians utilise health care services at much lower rates than the general population. Improving health care utilisation (HCU) among Aboriginal cardiac patients requires a better understanding of the factors that constrain or facilitate use. The study aimed to identify ecological factors influencing health care utilisation (HCU) for Aboriginal cardiac patients, from the time of their cardiac event to 6–12 months post-event, in central Australia.
Methods
This qualitative descriptive study was guided by an ecological framework. A culturally-sensitive illness narrative focusing on Aboriginal cardiac patients’ “typical” journey guided focus groups and semi-structured interviews with Aboriginal cardiac patients, non-cardiac community members, health care providers and community researchers. Analysis utilised a thematic conceptual matrix and mixed coding method. Themes were categorised into Predisposing, Enabling, Need and Reinforcing factors and identified at Individual, Interpersonal, Primary Care and Hospital System levels.
Results
Compelling barriers to HCU identified at the Primary Care and Hospital System levels included communication, organisation and racism. Individual level factors related to HCU included language, knowledge of illness, perceived need and past experiences. Given these individual and health system barriers patients were reliant on utilising alternate family-level supports at the Interpersonal level to enable their journey.
Conclusion
Aboriginal cardiac patients face significant barriers to HCU, resulting in sub-optimal quality of care, placing them at risk for subsequent cardiovascular events and negative health outcomes. To facilitate HCU amongst Aboriginal people, strategies must be implemented to improve communication on all levels and reduce systemic barriers operating within the health system.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-83
PMCID: PMC3606832  PMID: 23497140
Health care utilisation; Facilitators/barriers to care; Cardiovascular disease; Indigenous; Aboriginal
7.  The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH): study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:287.
Background
Aboriginal Australians have a life expectancy more than ten years less than that of non-Aboriginal Australians, reflecting their disproportionate burden of both communicable and non-communicable disease throughout the lifespan. Little is known about the health and health trajectories of Aboriginal children and, although the majority of Aboriginal people live in urban areas, data are particularly sparse in relation to children living in urban areas.
Methods/Design
The Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) is a cohort study of Aboriginal children aged 0-17 years, from urban and large regional centers in New South Wales, Australia. SEARCH focuses on Aboriginal community identified health priorities of: injury; otitis media; vaccine-preventable conditions; mental health problems; developmental delay; obesity; and risk factors for chronic disease. Parents/caregivers and their children are invited to participate in SEARCH at the time of presentation to one of the four participating Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations at Mount Druitt, Campbelltown, Wagga Wagga and Newcastle. Questionnaire data are obtained from parents/caregivers and children, along with signed permission for follow-up through repeat data collection and data linkage. All children have their height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured and complete audiometry, otoscopy/pneumatic otoscopy and tympanometry. Children aged 1-7 years have speech and language assessed and their parents/caregivers complete the Parental Evaluation of Developmental Status. The Study aims to recruit 1700 children by the end of 2010 and to secure resources for long term follow up. From November 2008 to March 2010, 1010 children had joined the study. From those 446 children with complete data entry, participating children ranged in age from 2 weeks to 17 years old, with 144 aged 0-3, 147 aged 4-7, 75 aged 8-10 and 79 aged 11-17. 55% were male and 45% female.
Discussion
SEARCH is built on strong community partnerships, under Aboriginal leadership, and addresses community priorities relating to a number of under-researched areas. SEARCH will provide a unique long-term resource to investigate the causes and trajectories of health and illness in urban Aboriginal children and to identify potential targets for interventions to improve health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-287
PMCID: PMC2896939  PMID: 20507632
8.  The Lililwan Project: study protocol for a population-based active case ascertainment study of the prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities 
BMJ Open  2012;2(3):e000968.
Introduction
Anecdotal reports suggest that high-risk drinking in pregnancy is common in some remote Australian communities. Alcohol is teratogenic and may cause a range of lifelong conditions termed ‘fetal alcohol spectrum disorders’ (FASD). Australia has few diagnostic services for FASD, and prevalence of these neurodevelopmental disorders remains unknown. In 2009, Aboriginal leaders in the remote Fitzroy Valley in North Western Australia identified FASD as a community priority and initiated the Lililwani Project in partnership with leading research organisations. This project will establish the prevalence of FASD and other health and developmental problems in school-aged children residing in the Fitzroy Valley, providing data to inform FASD prevention and management.
Methods and analysis
This is a population-based active case ascertainment study of all children born in 2002 and 2003 and residing in the Fitzroy Valley. Participants will be identified from the Fitzroy Valley Population Project and Communicare databases. Parents/carers will be interviewed using a standardised diagnostic questionnaire modified for local language and cultural requirements to determine the demographics, antenatal exposures, birth outcomes, education and psychosocial status of each child. A comprehensive interdisciplinary health and neurodevelopmental assessment will be performed using tests and operational definitions adapted for the local context. Internationally recognised diagnostic criteria will be applied to determine FASD prevalence. Relationships between pregnancy exposures and early life trauma, neurodevelopmental, health and education outcomes will be evaluated using regression analysis. Results will be reported according to STROBE guidelines for observational studies.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethics approval has been granted by the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee, the Western Australian Aboriginal Health Information and Ethics Committee, the Western Australian Country Health Service Board Research Ethics Committee and the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Planning Forum Research Sub-committee. Results will be disseminated widely through peer-reviewed manuscripts, reports, conference presentations and the media.
Article summary
Article focus
To establish the need for prevalence data on FASD in remote Australia and for improved awareness and diagnosis of FASD.
To describe the protocol used in Australia's first population-based study of FASD prevalence using active case ascertainment in remote Aboriginal communities.
To demonstrate a process of community consultation and clinical research that respects the priorities, language and culture of Aboriginal communities.
Key messages
Accurate prevalence data on FASD and other health and developmental outcomes will inform prevention, service provision and policy in child health, education and justice.
This research will provide immediate and direct benefits to participants and the broader community, including a feasible and transferable model of FASD diagnosis and a model for culturally responsive research with Aboriginal communities.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study was a response to a local community initiative and followed extensive community consultation.
The population-based active method of case ascertainment will provide the most accurate prevalence data for diagnoses on the entire FASD spectrum and other health and developmental outcomes.
Standardised and locally developed clinical assessments whose interpretation is less biased by culture and language have been chosen carefully with cross-cultural considerations in mind and are considered valid for the purpose of the study.
There are no normative data for Aboriginal children for the assessments used in the study.
Study findings may not generalise to all children born in the Fitzroy Valley following the introduction of community-led alcohol restrictions in 2007, after which time FASD prevalence may have decreased.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000968
PMCID: PMC3346942  PMID: 22556161
9.  The overall health and risk factor profile of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants from the 45 and up study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:661.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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).
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-661
PMCID: PMC3717143  PMID: 23866062
Aboriginal Australians; Torres Strait Islanders; 45 and Up study
10.  Service providers’ perspectives, attitudes and beliefs on health services delivery for Aboriginal people receiving haemodialysis in rural Australia: a qualitative study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(10):e003581.
Objective
Providing services to rural dwelling minority cultural groups with serious chronic disease is challenging due to access to care and cultural differences. This study aimed to describe service providers’ perspectives on health services delivery for Aboriginal people receiving haemodialysis for end-stage kidney disease in rural Australia.
Design
Semistructured interviews, thematic analysis
Setting
A health district in rural New South Wales, Australia
Participants
Using purposive sampling, 29 renal and allied service providers were recruited, including nephrologists, renal nurses, community nurses, Aboriginal health workers, social workers and managers. Six were Aboriginal and 23 non-Aboriginal.
Results
Improving cultural understanding within the healthcare system was central to five themes identified: rigidity of service design (outreach, inevitable home treatment failures, pressure of system overload, limited efficacy of cultural awareness training and conflicting priorities in acute care); responding to social complexities (respecting but challenged by family obligations, assumptions about socioeconomic status and individualised care); promoting empowerment, trust and rapport (bridging gaps in cultural understanding, acknowledging the relationship between land, people and environment, and being time poor); distress at late diagnosis (lost opportunities and prioritise prevention); and contending with discrimination and racism (inherent judgement of lifestyle choices, inadequate cultural awareness, pervasive multilevel institutionalised racism and managing patient distrust).
Conclusions
Service providers believe current services are not designed to address cultural needs and Aboriginality, and that caring for Aboriginal patients receiving haemodialysis should be family focused and culturally safer. An Aboriginal-specific predialysis pathway, building staff cultural awareness and enhancing cultural safety within hospitals are the measures recommended. Increasing patient support for home haemodialysis may improve health and the quality of care outcomes.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003581
PMCID: PMC3808758  PMID: 24157820
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH; NEPHROLOGY
11.  Exploration of the beliefs and experiences of Aboriginal people with cancer in Western Australia: a methodology to acknowledge cultural difference and build understanding 
Background
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.
Methods/Design
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-9-60
PMCID: PMC2743702  PMID: 19674484
12.  Effect of health promotion and fluoride varnish on dental caries among Australian Aboriginal children: results from a community-randomized controlled trial* 
Objectives
We tested a dental health program in remote Aboriginal communities of Australia's Northern Territory, hypothesizing that it would reduce dental caries in preschool children.
Methods
In this 2-year, prospective, cluster-randomized, concurrent controlled, open trial of the dental health program compared to no such program, 30 communities were allocated at random to intervention and control groups. All residents aged 18–47 months were invited to participate. Twice per year for 2 years in the 15 intervention communities, fluoride varnish was applied to children's teeth, water consumption and daily tooth cleaning with toothpaste were advocated, dental health was promoted in community settings, and primary health care workers were trained in preventive dental care. Data from dental examinations at baseline and after 2 years were used to compute net dental caries increment per child (d3mfs). A multi-level statistical model compared d3mfs between intervention and control groups with adjustment for the clustered randomization design; four other models used additional variables for adjustment.
Results
At baseline, 666 children were examined; 543 of them (82%) were re-examined 2 years later. The adjusted d3mfs increment was significantly lower in the intervention group compared to the control group by an average of 3.0 surfaces per child (95% CI = 1.2, 4.9), a prevented fraction of 31%. Adjustment for additional variables yielded caries reductions ranging from 2.3 to 3.5 surfaces per child and prevented fractions of 24–36%.
Conclusions
These results corroborate findings from other studies where fluoride varnish was efficacious in preventing dental caries in young children.
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0528.2010.00561.x
PMCID: PMC3040293  PMID: 20707872
dental caries; fluoride varnish; health promotion; indigenous; randomized controlled trial
13.  Hospital admissions before the age of 2 years in Western Australia. 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  1994;70(3):205-210.
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.
PMCID: PMC1029743  PMID: 8135564
14.  Mental health first aid for Indigenous Australians: using Delphi consensus studies to develop guidelines for culturally appropriate responses to mental health problems 
BMC Psychiatry  2009;9:47.
Background
Ethnic minority groups are under-represented in mental health care services because of barriers such as poor mental health literacy. In 2007, the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program implemented a cultural adaptation of its first aid course to improve the capacity of Indigenous Australians to recognise and respond to mental health issues within their own communities. It became apparent that the content of this training would be improved by the development of best practice guidelines. This research aimed to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for providing first aid to an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental illness.
Methods
A panel of Australian Aboriginal people who are experts in Aboriginal mental health, participated in six independent Delphi studies investigating depression, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, deliberate self-injury, trauma and loss, and cultural considerations. The panel varied in size across the studies, from 20-24 participants. Panellists were presented with statements about possible first aid actions via online questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional actions not covered by the survey content. Statements were accepted for inclusion in a guideline if they were endorsed by ≥ 90% of panellists as essential or important. Each study developed one guideline from the outcomes of three Delphi questionnaire rounds. At the end of the six Delphi studies, participants were asked to give feedback on the value of the project and their participation experience.
Results
From a total of 1,016 statements shown to the panel of experts, 536 statements were endorsed (94 for depression, 151 for psychosis, 52 for suicidal thoughts and behaviours, 53 for deliberate self-injury, 155 for trauma and loss, and 31 for cultural considerations). The methodology and the guidelines themselves were found to be useful and appropriate by the panellists.
Conclusion
Aboriginal mental health experts were able to reach consensus about culturally appropriate first aid for mental illness. The Delphi consensus method could be useful more generally for consulting Indigenous peoples about culturally appropriate best practice in mental health services.
doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-47
PMCID: PMC2729076  PMID: 19646284
15.  Oral health care for children – a call for action 
Paediatrics & Child Health  2013;18(1):37-43.
Oral health is a fundamental component of overall health. All children and youth should have access to preventive and treatment-based dental care. Canadian children continue to have a high rate of dental disease, and this burden of illness is disproportionately represented by children of lower socioeconomic status, those in Aboriginal communities and new immigrants. In Canada, the proportion of public funding for dental care has been decreasing. This financial pressure has most affected low-income families, who are also less likely to have dental insurance. Publicly funded provincial/territorial dental plans for Canadian children are limited and show significant variability in their coverage. There is sound evidence that preventive dental visits improve oral health and reduce later costs, and good evidence that fluoridation therapy decreases the rate of dental caries, particularly in high-risk populations. Paediatricians and family physicians play an important role in identifying children at high risk for dental disease and in advocating for more comprehensive and universal dental care for children.
PMCID: PMC3680273  PMID: 24381493
Aboriginal communities; Early childhood caries; Flouride; Immigrants; Oral health; Prevention; Public health policy; Social determinants
16.  Risk indicators for severe impaired oral health among indigenous Australian young adults 
BMC Oral Health  2010;10:1.
Background
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.
Methods
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).
Results
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).
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1472-6831-10-1
PMCID: PMC2827466  PMID: 20102640
17.  STI in remote communities: improved and enhanced primary health care (STRIVE) study protocol: a cluster randomised controlled trial comparing ‘usual practice’ STI care to enhanced care in remote primary health care services in Australia 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:425.
Background
Despite two decades of interventions, rates of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in remote Australian Aboriginal communities remain unacceptably high. Routine notifications data from 2011 indicate rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea among Aboriginal people in remote settings were 8 and 61 times higher respectively than in the non-Indigenous population.
Methods/design
STRIVE is a stepped-wedge cluster randomised trial designed to compare a sexual health quality improvement program (SHQIP) to usual STI clinical care delivered in remote primary health care services. The SHQIP is a multifaceted intervention comprising annual assessments of sexual health service delivery, implementation of a sexual health action plan, six-monthly clinical service activity data reports, regular feedback meetings with a regional coordinator, training and financial incentive payments. The trial clusters comprise either a single community or several communities grouped together based on geographic proximity and cultural ties. The primary outcomes are: prevalence of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomonas in Aboriginal residents aged 16–34 years, and performance in clinical management of STIs based on best practice indicators. STRIVE will be conducted over five years comprising one and a half years of trial initiation and community consultation, three years of trial conditions, and a half year of data analysis. The trial was initiated in 68 remote Aboriginal health services in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
Discussion
STRIVE is the first cluster randomised trial in STI care in remote Aboriginal health services. The trial will provide evidence to inform future culturally appropriate STI clinical care and control strategies in communities with high STI rates.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000358044
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-425
PMCID: PMC3847940  PMID: 24016143
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Sexually transmitted infections; Chlamydia; Gonorrhoea; Trichomonas; Continuous quality improvement; Protocol; Prevalence; Remote
18.  Understanding, beliefs and perspectives of Aboriginal people in Western Australia about cancer and its impact on access to cancer services 
Background
Despite a lower overall incidence, Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes from cancer compared with the non-Aboriginal population as manifested by higher mortality and lower 5-year survival rates. Lower participation in screening, later diagnosis of cancer, poor continuity of care, and poorer compliance with treatment are known factors contributing to this poor outcome. Nevertheless, many deficits remain in understanding the underlying reasons, with the recommendation of further exploration of Aboriginal beliefs and perceptions of cancer to help understand their care-seeking behavior. This could assist with planning and delivery of more effective interventions and better services for the Aboriginal population. This research explored Western Australian (WA) Aboriginal peoples' perceptions, beliefs and understanding of cancer.
Methods
A total of 37 Aboriginal people from various geographical areas within WA with a direct or indirect experience of cancer were interviewed between March 2006 and September 2007. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers. NVivo7 software was used to assist data management and analysis. A social constructionist framework provided a theoretical basis for analysis. Interpretation occurred within the research team with member checking and the involvement of an Aboriginal Reference Group assisting with ensuring validity and reliability.
Results
Outcomes indicated that misunderstanding, fear of death, fatalism, shame, preference for traditional healing, beliefs such as cancer is contagious and other spiritual issues affected their decisions around accessing services. These findings provide important information for health providers who are involved in cancer-related service delivery.
Conclusion
These underlying beliefs must be specifically addressed to develop appropriate educational, screening and treatment approaches including models of care and support that facilitate better engagement of Indigenous people. Models of care and support that are more culturally-friendly, where health professionals take account of both Indigenous and Western beliefs about health and the relationship between these, and which engage and include Indigenous people need to be developed. Cultural security, removing system barriers and technical/scientific excellence are all important to ensure Indigenous people utilise healthcare to realise the benefits of modern cancer treatments.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-132
PMCID: PMC2731745  PMID: 19643031
19.  Inequalities in ventilation tube insertion procedures between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in New South Wales, Australia: a data linkage study 
BMJ Open  2013;3(11):e003807.
Objectives
Australian Aboriginal children experience earlier, more frequent and more severe otitis media, particularly in remote communities, than non-Aboriginal children. Insertion of ventilation tubes is the main surgical procedure for otitis media. Our aim was to quantify inequalities in ventilation tube insertion (VTI) procedures between Australian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, and to explore the influence of birth characteristics, socioeconomic background and geographical remoteness on this inequality.
Design
Retrospective cohort study using linked hospital and mortality data from July 2000 to December 2008.
Setting and participants
A whole-of-population cohort of 653 550 children (16 831 Aboriginal and 636 719 non-Aboriginal) born in a New South Wales hospital between 1 July 2000 and 31 December 2007 was included in the analysis.
Outcome measure
First VTI procedure.
Results
VTI rates were lower in Aboriginal compared with non-Aboriginal children (incidence rate (IR), 4.3/1000 person-years; 95% CI 3.8 to 4.8 vs IR 5.8/1000 person-years; 95% CI 5.7 to 5.8). Overall, Aboriginal children were 28% less likely than non-Aboriginal children to have ventilation tubes inserted (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted rate ratios (RRs) 0.72; 95% CI 0.64 to 0.80). After adjusting additionally for geographical remoteness, Aboriginal children were 19% less likely to have ventilation tubes inserted (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted RR 0.81; 95% CI 0.73 to 0.91). After adjusting separately for private patient/health insurance status and area socioeconomic status, there was no significant difference (age-adjusted and sex-adjusted RR 0.96; 95% CI 0.86 to 1.08 and RR 0.93; 95% CI 0.83 to 1.04, respectively). In the fully adjusted model, there were no significant differences in VTI rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children (RR 1.06; 95% CI 0.94 to 1.19).
Conclusions
Despite a much higher prevalence of otitis media, Aboriginal children were less likely to receive VTI procedures than their non-Aboriginal counterparts; this inequality was largely explained by differences in socioeconomic status and geographical remoteness.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003807
PMCID: PMC3845074  PMID: 24285631
Epidemiology; Public Health
20.  "If you don't believe it, it won't help you": use of bush medicine in treating cancer among Aboriginal people in Western Australia 
Background
Little is known about the use of bush medicine and traditional healing among Aboriginal Australians for their treatment of cancer and the meanings attached to it. A qualitative study that explored Aboriginal Australians' perspectives and experiences of cancer and cancer services in Western Australia provided an opportunity to analyse the contemporary meanings attached and use of bush medicine by Aboriginal people with cancer in Western Australia
Methods
Data collection occurred in Perth, both rural and remote areas and included individual in-depth interviews, observations and field notes. Of the thirty-seven interviews with Aboriginal cancer patients, family members of people who died from cancer and some Aboriginal health care providers, 11 participants whose responses included substantial mention on the issue of bush medicine and traditional healing were selected for the analysis for this paper.
Results
The study findings have shown that as part of their healing some Aboriginal Australians use traditional medicine for treating their cancer. Such healing processes and medicines were preferred by some because it helped reconnect them with their heritage, land, culture and the spirits of their ancestors, bringing peace of mind during their illness. Spiritual beliefs and holistic health approaches and practices play an important role in the treatment choices for some patients.
Conclusions
Service providers need to acknowledge and understand the existence of Aboriginal knowledge (epistemology) and accept that traditional healing can be an important addition to an Aboriginal person's healing complementing Western medical treatment regimes. Allowing and supporting traditional approaches to treatment reflects a commitment by modern medical services to adopting an Aboriginal-friendly approach that is not only culturally appropriate but assists with the cultural security of the service.
doi:10.1186/1746-4269-6-18
PMCID: PMC2902429  PMID: 20569478
21.  Results of an Innovative Education, Training and Quality Assurance Program for Point-of-Care HbA1c Testing using the Bayer DCA 2000 in Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services 
The Clinical Biochemist Reviews  2003;24(4):123-130.
This study describes the development, implementation and management of a multi-faceted quality assurance program called Quality Assurance for Aboriginal Medical Services (QAAMS) to support point-of-care HbA1c testing on the Bayer DCA 2000 in Aboriginal people with diabetes from 45 Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
The quality assurance program comprised four elements: production of culturally appropriate education resources, formal training for Aboriginal Health Workers conducting HbA1c testing, an external quality assurance program and on-going quality management support services including a help hotline and an annual workshop. Aboriginal Health Workers were required to test two quality assurance (QAAMS) samples in a blind sense every month since July 1999. Samples were linearly related and comprised six paired levels of HbA1c. The short and long term performance of each service’s DCA 2000 was reviewed monthly and at the end of each six month testing cycle.
The average participation rate over 7 six-monthly QAAMS testing cycles was 88%. 84% of 3100 quality assurance tests performed were within preset limits of acceptability. The median precision (CV%) for HbA1c testing has averaged 3.8% across the past 5 cycles (range 3.4 to 4.0%) and is continuing to improve. The introduction of a medical rebate for HbA1c testing has ensured the program’s sustainability.
Through continuing education and training, Aboriginal Health Workers have achieved consistent analytical performance for HbA1c testing on the DCA 2000, equivalent to that of laboratory scientists using the same instrument. This unique quality assurance model can be readily adapted to other Indigenous health settings and other point-of-care tests and instruments.
PMCID: PMC1853353  PMID: 18568052
22.  Delivery of maternal health care in Indigenous primary care services: baseline data for an ongoing quality improvement initiative 
Background
Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) populations have disproportionately high rates of adverse perinatal outcomes relative to other Australians. Poorer access to good quality maternal health care is a key driver of this disparity. The aim of this study was to describe patterns of delivery of maternity care and service gaps in primary care services in Australian Indigenous communities.
Methods
We undertook a cross-sectional baseline audit for a quality improvement intervention. Medical records of 535 women from 34 Indigenous community health centres in five regions (Top End of Northern Territory 13, Central Australia 2, Far West New South Wales 6, Western Australia 9, and North Queensland 4) were audited. The main outcome measures included: adherence to recommended protocols and procedures in the antenatal and postnatal periods including: clinical, laboratory and ultrasound investigations; screening for gestational diabetes and Group B Streptococcus; brief intervention/advice on health-related behaviours and risks; and follow up of identified health problems.
Results
The proportion of women presenting for their first antenatal visit in the first trimester ranged from 34% to 49% between regions; consequently, documentation of care early in pregnancy was poor. Overall, documentation of routine antenatal investigations and brief interventions/advice regarding health behaviours varied, and generally indicated that these services were underutilised. For example, 46% of known smokers received smoking cessation advice/counselling; 52% of all women received antenatal education and 51% had investigation for gestational diabetes. Overall, there was relatively good documentation of follow up of identified problems related to hypertension or diabetes, with over 70% of identified women being referred to a GP/Obstetrician.
Conclusion
Participating services had both strengths and weaknesses in the delivery of maternal health care. Increasing access to evidence-based screening and health information (most notably around smoking cessation) were consistently identified as opportunities for improvement across services.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-16
PMCID: PMC3066246  PMID: 21385387
23.  The Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) study, a randomised controlled trial of an intensive smoking cessation intervention in a remote aboriginal Australian health care setting 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:32.
Background
Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (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 outcome of a study that aimed to test the efficacy of a locally-tailored, intensive, multidimensional smoking cessation program.
Methods
A randomised controlled trial of Aboriginal researcher delivered tailored smoking cessation counselling during face-to-face visits, aiming for weekly for the first four weeks, monthly to six months and two monthly to 12 months. The control (“usual care”) group received routine care relating to smoking cessation at their local primary health care service. Data collection occurred at enrolment, six and 12 months. The primary outcome was self-reported smoking cessation with urinary cotinine confirmation at final follow-up (median 13 (interquartile range 12–15) months after enrolment).
Results
Participants in the intervention (n = 55) and usual care (n = 108) groups were similar in baseline characteristics, except the intervention group was slightly older. At final follow-up the smoking cessation rate for participants assigned to the intervention group (n = 6; 11%), while not statistically significant, was double that of usual care (n = 5; 5%; p = 0.131). A meta-analysis of these findings and a similarly underpowered but comparable study of pregnant Indigenous Australian women showed that Indigenous Australian participants assigned to the intervention groups were 2.4 times (95% CI, 1.01-5.5) as likely to quit as participants assigned to usual care.
Conclusions
Culturally appropriate, multi-dimensional Indigenous quit smoking programs can be successfully implemented in remote primary health care. Intensive one-on-one interventions with substantial involvement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers are likely to be effective in these settings.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12608000604303).
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-32
PMCID: PMC3905726  PMID: 24418597
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Randomised controlled trial; Smoking cessation; Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) Study
24.  Tailoring a response to youth binge drinking in an Aboriginal Australian community: a grounded theory study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:726.
Background
While Aboriginal Australian health providers prioritise identification of local community health needs and strategies, they do not always have the opportunity to access or interpret evidence-based literature to inform health improvement innovations. Research partnerships are therefore important when designing or modifying Aboriginal Australian health improvement initiatives and their evaluation. However, there are few models that outline the pragmatic steps by which research partners negotiate to develop, implement and evaluate community-based initiatives. The objective of this paper is to provide a theoretical model of the tailoring of health improvement initiatives by Aboriginal community-based service providers and partner university researchers. It draws from the case of the Beat da Binge community-initiated youth binge drinking harm reduction project in Yarrabah.
Methods
A theoretical model was developed using the constructivist grounded theory methods of concurrent sampling, data collection and analysis. Data was obtained from the recordings of reflective Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) processes with Aboriginal community partners and young people, and university researchers. CBPR data was supplemented with interviews with theoretically sampled project participants. The transcripts of CBPR recordings and interviews were imported into NVIVO and coded to identify categories and theoretical constructs. The identified categories were then developed into higher order concepts and the relationships between concepts identified until the central purpose of those involved in the project and the core process that facilitated that purpose were identified.
Results
The tailored alcohol harm reduction project resulted in clarification of the underlying local determinants of binge drinking, and a shift in the project design from a social marketing awareness campaign (based on short-term events) to a more robust advocacy for youth mentoring into education, employment and training. The community-based process undertaken by the research partnership to tailor the design, implementation and evaluation of the project was theorised as a model incorporating four overlapping stages of negotiating knowledges and meanings to tailor a community response.
Conclusions
The theoretical model can be applied in spaces where local Aboriginal and scientific knowledges meet to support the tailored design, implementation and evaluation of other health improvement projects, particularly those that originate from Aboriginal communities themselves.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-726
PMCID: PMC3750544  PMID: 23919727
Indigenous population; Binge drinking; Adolescent; Community-based participatory research; Research design
25.  Aboriginal-mainstream partnerships: exploring the challenges and enhancers of a collaborative service arrangement for Aboriginal clients with substance use issues 
Background
Partnerships between different health services are integral to addressing the complex health needs of vulnerable populations. In Australia, partnerships between Aboriginal1 community controlled and mainstream services can extend health care options and improve the cultural safety of services. However, although government funding supports such collaborations, many factors can cause these arrangements to be tenuous, impacting the quality of health care received. Research was undertaken to explore the challenges and enhancers of a government initiated service partnership between an Aboriginal Community Controlled alcohol and drug service and three mainstream alcohol rehabilitation and support services.
Methods
Sixteen staff including senior managers (n=5), clinical team leaders (n=5) and counsellors (n=6) from the four services were purposively recruited and interviewed. Interviews were semi-structured and explored staff experience of the partnership including the client intake and referral process, shared client care, inter-service communication and ways of working.
Results & discussion
Communication issues, partner unfamiliarity, ‘mainstreaming’ of Aboriginal funding, divergent views regarding staff competencies, client referral issues, staff turnover and different ways of working emerged as issues, emphasizing the challenges of working with a population with complex issues in a persistent climate of limited resourcing. Factors enhancing the partnership included adding a richness and diversity to treatment possibilities and opportunities to explore different, more culturally appropriate ways of working.
Conclusion
While the literature strongly advises partnerships be suitably mature before commencing service delivery, the reality of funding cycles may require partnerships become operational before relationships are adequately consolidated. Allowing sufficient time and funding for both the operation and relational aspects of a partnership is critical, with support for partners to regularly meet and workshop arrangements. Documentation that makes clear and embeds working arrangements between partners is important to ameliorate many of the issues that can arise. Given the historical undercurrents, flexible approaches are required to focus on strengths that contribute to progress, even if incremental, rather than on weaknesses which can undermine efforts. This research offers important lessons to assist other services collaborating in post-colonial settings to offer treatment pathways for vulnerable populations.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-12
PMCID: PMC3547814  PMID: 23305201
Aboriginal; Mainstream; Vulnerable populations; Partnerships; Health services

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