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.
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).
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.
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.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12608000604303).
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Randomised controlled trial; Smoking cessation; Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) Study
Tobacco smoking is a very significant behavioural risk factor for the health of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and is embedded as a social norm. With a focus on women of childbearing age, and men of similar age, this project aims to determine how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers assess smoking risks and how these assessments contribute to their intentions to quit. The findings from this pragmatic study should contribute to developing culturally targeted interventions.
Methods and analysis
A cross-sectional study using quantitative and qualitative data. A total of 120 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members aged 18–45 years will be recruited at community events and through an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS). Participants will be interviewed using a tablet computer or paper survey. The survey instrument uses modified risk behaviour scales, that is, the Risk Behaviour Diagnosis (RBD) scale and the Smoking Risk Assessment Target (SRAT) (adapted from the Risk Acceptance Ladder) to determine whether attitudes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers to health risk messages are predictors of intentions to quit smoking.
The questionnaire will be assessed for face and content validity with a panel of Indigenous community members. The internal consistency of the RBD subscales and their patterns of correlation will be explored. Multivariate analyses will examine predictors of intentions to quit. This will include demographics such as age, gender, nicotine dependence, household smoking rules and perceived threat from smoking and efficacy for quitting. The two risk-assessment scales will be examined to see whether participant responses are correlated.
Ethics and dissemination
The Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council Ethics Committee and university ethics committees approved the study. The results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and a community report will be disseminated by the ACCHS, and at community forums.
Note about terminology
We use the term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, except where previous research has reported findings from only one group for example, Aboriginal people. Indigenous is used here to refer to Indigenous peoples in the international context, and issues, policies or systems, for example, Indigenous health, Indigenous tobacco control.
PREVENTIVE MEDICINE; PUBLIC HEALTH
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a higher prevalence and incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes than non-Indigenous Australian women. Physical inactivity is a key modifiable risk factor for obesity and evidence shows that even modest reductions in waist circumference (WC) have significant health benefits. Trialing physical activity programs in difficult-to-reach high risk groups, especially urban Indigenous Australians poses distinct implementation challenges.
The trial objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of a structured 12-week physical activity group program with nutritional advice. The design is a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. This study protocol describes the implementation and evaluation of the program. Participants are randomised into either an intervention or waitlisted group. The waitlisted group have a 12 month waiting period before commencing the 12-week program. Participant data is collected at baseline, 12, 24 and 52 weeks. Participants are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, aged 18-64 years with a waist circumference greater than 80 centimetres residing in Adelaide. The primary outcome measure is WC change immediately post program from baseline. Secondary outcomes include short term and long term changes in WC, weight, blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, insulin, insulin resistance (calculated HOMA), haemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), triglycerides and C-reactive protein (CRP). Behavioural and psychosocial surveys are administered to assess physical activity, dietary intake and the participant's motivation, self-efficacy and perceived social support for physical activity. Qualitative interviews focusing on participants' motivation, enablers and barriers to healthy eating and physical activity will be undertaken. Implementation fidelity and participation are also assessed.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Fitness Program (WFP) is designed to provide a rigorous physiological and client-based evaluation of a structured 12-week program aimed to increase metabolic fitness and reduce WC in this high risk population. Evaluation results aim to provide the support necessary to design programs that are accessible, affordable and effective at reducing WC, while also improving the metabolic profile of overweight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000224022
Acute respiratory illness (ARI) is the most common cause of acute presentations and hospitalisations of young Indigenous children in Australia and New Zealand (NZ). Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) from household smoking is a significant and preventable contributor to childhood ARI. This paper describes the protocol for a study which aims to test the efficacy of a family-centred tobacco control program about ETS to improve the respiratory health of Indigenous infants in Australia and New Zealand. For the purpose of this paper 'Indigenous' refers to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when referring to Australian Indigenous populations. In New Zealand, the term 'Indigenous' refers to Māori.
This study will be a parallel, randomized, controlled trial. Participants will be Indigenous women and their infants, half of whom will be randomly allocated to an 'intervention' group, who will receive the tobacco control program over three home visits in the first three months of the infant's life and half to a control group receiving 'usual care' (i.e. they will not receive the tobacco control program). Indigenous health workers will deliver the intervention, the goal of which is to reduce or eliminate infant exposure to ETS. Data collection will occur at baseline (shortly after birth) and when the infant is four months and one year of age. The primary outcome is a doctor-diagnosed, documented case of respiratory illness in participating infants.
Interventions aimed at reducing exposure of Indigenous children to ETS have the potential for significant benefits for Indigenous communities. There is currently a dearth of evidence for the effect of tobacco control interventions to reduce children's exposure to ETS among Indigenous populations. This study will provide high-quality evidence of the efficacy of a family-centred tobacco control program on ETS to reduce respiratory illness. Outcomes of our study will be important and significant for Indigenous tobacco control in Australia and New Zealand and prevention of respiratory illness in children.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12609000937213)
The inequity of randomising participants to control groups in randomised controlled trials (RCTs) is often considered inappropriate, especially for research trials that include vulnerable populations such as Indigenous peoples. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Fitness Program conducted a trial that randomly assigned participants to ‘active’ and ‘waitlisted’ groups. This paper reports on participant views of the randomisation protocol.
A pragmatic RCT was conducted in an urban setting to assess the effectiveness of the 12-week Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Fitness Program on metabolic health outcomes and waist circumference. Qualitative interviews were conducted at follow-up, one of the objectives was to explore participant perspectives on the research protocol, including participant randomisation to ‘Active’ and ‘Waitlisted’ groups.
A total of 49 interviews were conducted (26 Active and 23 Waitlisted participants). Two key factors influenced participant views on the protocol: 1) group assignment; and 2) how well they understood the research design, including the justification for randomisation. ‘Active’ participants were concerned about the inequity of the randomisation process but overall supported the study protocol. Although most Waitlisted participants were disappointed about having to wait 12-months for the program, some participants derived motivation from being waitlisted, whilst others lost motivation. Well-informed participants were more likely to express both support for the randomisation process and an understanding of the research benefits than participants not attending an information session prior to registration.
Participants were more accepting of the research protocol if it was clearly explained to them, if they understood the randomisation process and felt the randomisation was justified in terms of the potential for the results to benefit other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Our study suggests that the time and resources required to adequately explain the research protocol in research trials should not be undervalued.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12610000224022).
Pragmatic RCTs; Qualitative research; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Physical activity; Randomisation
Fewer than half of all people at highest risk of a cardiovascular event are receiving and adhering to best practice recommendations to lower their risk. In this project, we examine the role of an e-health-assisted consumer-focused strategy as a means of overcoming these gaps between evidence and practice. Consumer Navigation of Electronic Cardiovascular Tools (CONNECT) aims to test whether a consumer-focused e-health strategy provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous adults, recruited through primary care, at moderate-to-high risk of a cardiovascular disease event will improve risk factor control when compared with usual care.
Methods and analysis
Randomised controlled trial of 2000 participants with an average of 18 months of follow-up to evaluate the effectiveness of an integrated consumer-directed e-health portal on cardiovascular risk compared with usual care in patients with cardiovascular disease or who are at moderate-to-high cardiovascular disease risk. The trial will be augmented by formal economic and process evaluations to assess acceptability, equity and cost-effectiveness of the intervention. The intervention group will participate in a consumer-directed e-health strategy for cardiovascular risk management. The programme is electronically integrated with the primary care provider's software and will include interactive smart phone and Internet platforms. The primary outcome is a composite endpoint of the proportion of people meeting the Australian guideline-recommended blood pressure (BP) and cholesterol targets. Secondary outcomes include change in mean BP and fasting cholesterol levels, proportion meeting BP and cholesterol targets separately, self-efficacy, health literacy, self-reported point prevalence abstinence in smoking, body mass index and waist circumference, self-reported physical activity and self-reported medication adherence.
Ethics and dissemination
Primary ethics approval was received from the University of Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council. Results will be disseminated via the usual scientific forums including peer-reviewed publications and presentations at international conferences
Clinical Trials registration number
Preventive Medicine; Primary Care
Health Assessment (HA) items were introduced in 1999 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged at least 55 years and all Australians aged over 75 years. In 2004 a new item was introduced for HAs among adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–54 years. The new item has been applauded as a major policy innovation however this enthusiasm has been tempered with concern about potential barriers to its uptake. In this study we aim to determine whether there are disparities in uptake of HA items for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to other Australians.
The analysis was based on Health Insurance Commission data. Indigenous status was ascertained based on the item number used. Logistic regression was used to compare uptake of HA items for older people among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to other Australians. Adjustments were made for dual eligibility. Uptake of the HA items for older people was compared to the uptake of the new item for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–44 years.
Our analyses suggest a significant and persistent disparity in the uptake of items for older patients among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to other Australians. A similar disparity appears to exist in the uptake of the new adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HA item.
Further engagement of primary care providers and the community around the uptake of the new HA items may be required to ensure that the anticipated health benefits eventuate.
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in Australia. Comprehensive tobacco control has reduced smoking rates in Australia from approximately 34 per cent in 1980 to 15 per cent in 2010. However, 46 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Indigenous Australians) smoke on a daily basis, more than double the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. The evidence of effective tobacco control strategies for Indigenous Australians is relatively scarce. The aim of this study is to (i) explore the influences of smoking in Indigenous Australian people and to (ii) help inform and evaluate a multi-component tobacco control strategy. The study aims to answer the following questions: - do individuals' social networks influence smoking behaviours; - is there an association between various social and cultural factors and being a smoker or non-smoker; and - does a multi-component tobacco control program impact positively on tobacco behaviours, attitudes and beliefs in Indigenous Australians.
Methods and design
Our prospective study will use a mixed-method approach (qualitative and quantitative), including a pre- and post-test evaluation of a tobacco control initiative. The study will explore the social and cultural context underlying Indigenous Australian tobacco use and associated factors which influence smoking behaviour. Primary data will be collected via a panel survey, interviews and focus groups. Secondary data will include de-identified PBS items related to smoking and also data collected from the Quitlines call service. Network analysis will be used to assess whether social networks influence smoking behaviours. For the survey, baseline differences will be tested using chi2 statistics for the categorical and dichotomous variables and t-tests for the continuous variables, where appropriate. Grounded theory will be used to analyse the interviews and focus groups. Local Aboriginal community controlled organisations will partner in the study.
Our study will explore the key factors, including the influence of social networks, that impact on tobacco use and the extent to which smoking behaviours transcend networks within the Indigenous Australian community in the ACT. This will add to the evidence-base, identifying influential factors to tobacco use and the effectiveness and influence of a multi-component tobacco control strategy.
In this paper I will describe some of the sentinel events in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policy and strategy during 2003 and the early part of 2004. This will involve discussion on the:
• National Strategic Framework in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
• National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well Being 2004–2009
• National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework
• The roll-out of the Primary Health Care Access Program
• The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey and the National Indigenous Health Survey
These developments are consistent with a policy agenda that has evolved, in general terms, since the release of the National Aboriginal Health Strategy in 1989. However, I will also consider significant developments in the broader context for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, particularly the decision made in early 2004 by the Howard government to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). While the key events and developments that are reported in this paper elaborate on an agenda that has been developing for more than a decade, the decision to abolish ATSIC is likely to have a revolutionary impact on the future development of Aboriginal health strategy.
There is limited evidence regarding the best approaches to helping Indigenous Australians to stop smoking. The composite analysis of the only two smoking cessation randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating this suggests that one-on-one extra support delivered by and provided to Indigenous Australians in a primary health care setting appears to be more effective than usual care in encouraging smoking cessation. This paper describes the lessons learnt from one of these studies, the Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) Study, and how to develop and implement an integrated smoking cessation program.
Qualitative study using data collected from multiple documentary sources related to the BOABS Study. As the project neared completion the research team participated in four workshops to review and conduct thematic analyses of these documents.
Challenges we encountered during the relatively complex BOABS Study included recruiting sufficient number of participants; managing the project in two distant locations and ensuring high quality work across both sites; providing appropriate training and support to Aboriginal researchers; significant staff absences, staff shortages and high workforce turnover; determining where and how the project fitted in the clinics and consequent siloing of the Aboriginal researchers relating to the requirements of RCTs; resistance to change, and maintaining organisational commitment and priority for the project. The results of this study also demonstrated the importance of local Aboriginal ownership, commitment, participation and control. This included knowledge of local communities, the flexibility to adapt interventions to local settings and circumstances, and taking sufficient time to allow this to occur.
The keys to the success of the BOABS Study were local development, ownership and participation, worker professional development and support, and operating within a framework of cultural safety. There were difficulties associated with the BOABS Study being an RCT, and many of these are shared with stand-alone programs. Interventions targeted at particular health problems are best integrated with usual primary health care. Research to investigate complex interventions in Indigenous health should not be limited to randomised clinical trials and funding needs to reflect the additional, but necessary, cost of providing for local control of planning and implementation.
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Smoking cessation; Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) study; Qualitative; Randomised controlled trial
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.
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.
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.
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.
Smoking rates in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remain high, with limited impact of government measures for many subgroups. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate differences in organisational practice for developing anti-tobacco messages for these target populations.
Telephone interviews were conducted with 47 organisation representatives using a structured questionnaire based on health communication and health promotion frameworks. Responses were coded into phases of message development, message types (educational, threat, positive or advocacy), target groups, message recommendations, and evaluations undertaken. Cultural sensitivity for message development was divided into surface structure (use of images, language, demographics) and deep structure (use of socio-cultural values). A categorical principal component analysis explored the key dimensions of the findings and their component relationships.
Among organisations interviewed, a community-orientated, bottom-up approach for developing anti-tobacco messages was reported by 47% (n = 24); 55% based message development on a theoretical framework; 87% used a positive benefit appeal; 38% used threat messages. More Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) targeted youth (p < 0.005) and advised smokers to quit (p < 0.05) than other types of organisations. AMSs were significantly more likely to report using deep structure in tailoring messages compared with non-government (p < 0.05) and government organisations (p < 0.05). Organisations that were oriented to the general population were more likely to evaluate their programs (p < 0.05). A two-dimensional non-linear principal component analysis extracted components interpreted as “cultural understanding” (bottom-up, community-based approaches, deep structures) and “rigour” (theoretical frameworks, and planned/completed evaluations), and accounted for 53% of the variability in the data.
Message features, associated with successful campaigns in other populations, are starting to be used for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A model is proposed to facilitate the development of targeted anti-tobacco messages for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Organisations could consider incorporating both components of cultural understanding-rigour to enable the growth of evidence-based practice.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; Oceania ancestry group; Tobacco smoking; Anti-tobacco messages; Smoking cessation; Cultural sensitivity; Targeted health promotion messages, evaluation
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experience widespread socioeconomic disadvantage and health inequality. In an attempt to make Indigenous health research more culturally-appropriate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have called for more attention to the concept of emotional and social wellbeing (ESWB). Although it has been widely recognised that ESWB is of crucial importance to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, there is little consensus on how to measure in Indigenous populations, hampering efforts to better understand and improve the psychosocial determinants of health. This paper explores the policy and political context to this situation, and suggests ways to move forward. The second part of the paper explores how scales can be evaluated in a health research setting, including assessments of endorsement, discrimination, internal and external reliability.
We then evaluate the use of a measure of stressful life events, the Negative Life Events Scale (NLES), in two samples of Aboriginal people living in remote communities in the Northern Territory of Australia. We argue that the Negative Life Events Scale is a promising assessment of psychosocial wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Evaluation of the scale and its performance in other samples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations is imperative if we hope to develop better, rather than more, scales for measuring ESWB among Indigenous Australians. Only then will it be possible to establish standardized methods of measuring ESWB and develop a body of comparable literature that can guide both a better understanding of ESWB, and evaluation of interventions designed to improve the psychosocial health of Indigenous populations and decrease health inequalities.
The prevalence of food insecurity is substantially higher among Australians of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. The purpose of this study is to explain the relationship between food insecurity and Aboriginal and Torres Islander status in the state of Victoria.
Data were obtained from the 2008 Victorian Population Health Survey; a cross-sectional landline computer-assisted telephone interview survey of 34,168 randomly selected Victorians aged 18 years and older; including 339 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We categorised a respondent as food insecure, if in the previous 12 months, they reported having run out of food and not being able to afford to buy more. We used multivariable logistic regression to adjust for age, sex, socioeconomic status (household income), lifestyle risk factors (smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity), social support (ability to get help from family, friends or neighbours), household composition (lone parent status, household with a child, and household size), and geographic location (rurality).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (20.3%) were more likely than their non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counterparts (5.4%) to have experienced food insecurity; odds ratio (OR) = 4.5 (95% CI; 2.7-7.4). Controlling for age, SES, smoking, obesity and inability to get help from family or friends reduced the odds ratio by 38%; ORadjusted = 2.8 (1.6-5.0).
Social determinants and lifestyle risk factors only partially explained the higher prevalence of food insecurity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Victoria. Further research is needed to explain the disparity in food insecurity between the two populations in order to inform and guide corrective action.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders persistently experience a significantly lower standard of health in comparison to non-Indigenous Australians. The factors contributing to this disparity are complex and entrenched in a history of social inequality, disempowerment, poverty, dispossession and discrimination. Aboriginal medical services (AMS) provide a culturally appropriate alternative to mainstream medical services as a means to address this health disparity and also advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment. This study provides a vignette of lay perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders accessing community and government controlled AMS in Brisbane, Queensland with the intention of identifying self-perceived health determinants to inform the post-2015 international development goals.
Focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were held with clients of a government-controlled AMS and an Aboriginal community controlled health service (ACCHS) in order to identify their self-identified essential health needs. Conversations were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and de-identified for analysis. Common themes were identified to highlight important issues around community health needs, how they can be addressed and what lessons can be extended to inform the post-2015 development goals.
Findings and discussion
Participants acknowledge the complexity of health determinants faced by their peoples. Thematic analysis highlighted the pervasive influence of racism through many perceived health determinants; resulting in reduced healthcare seeking behaviour, unhealthy lifestyles and mental health issues. Participants emphasised the marked health improvements seen due to the establishment of Aboriginal medical services in their communities and the importance of the AMS’ role in addressing the negative effects of discrimination on Indigenous health.
It is concluded from this study that AMS are crucial in addressing the negative impacts of continued discrimination on Indigenous health by providing comprehensive, culturally appropriate, community empowering health services. Such services improve Indigenous healthcare seeking rates, provide invaluable health education services and address mental health concerns in communities and must be supported in order to address health inequalities in Australia. Community driven and culturally informed health services should be encouraged globally to address health disparities.
Discrimination; Indigenous; Aboriginal; Community controlled health services; Healthcare-seeking behaviour; Fear; Mental health; Australia
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher rates of obesity, chronic disease, and are less active than non-Indigenous Australian women. Lifestyle programs designed to increase physical activity and encourage healthy eating are needed to ameliorate this disparity. The aim of this study was to identify participants’ perceived barriers and enablers to attend group exercise classes as part of a 12-week fitness program.
To understand the factors that influence attendance, a mixed method process evaluation was undertaken in which a quantitative measure of attendance in the group exercise classes was used to identify cases for further qualitative investigation. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women aged 18 to 64 years were recruited to a research trial of a fitness program. The 12-week program included two 60-minute group exercise classes per week, and four nutrition education workshops. Semi-structured interviews were conducted at program completion. Participants were stratified by attendance, and interviews from the highest and lowest 25 percentiles analysed. Rigour was strengthened through use of multiple data analysts, member checking and prolonged engagement in the field.
Analyses of the post-program interviews revealed that participants enrolled in the program primarily for the perceived health benefits and all (with one exception) found the program met their needs and expectations. The atmosphere of classes was positive and comfortable and they reported developing good relationships with their fellow participants and program staff. Low attendees described more barriers to attendance, such as illness and competing work and family obligations, and were more likely to report logistical issues, such as inconvenient venue or class times.
Attendance to the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Fitness Program’ was primarily influenced by the participant’s personal health, logistics and competing obligations. Low attendees reported more barriers during the 12-week period and identified fewer enabling factors than high attendees.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000224022
Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Physical activity; Women; Lifestyle program; Health promotion; Barriers; Facilitators; Participation
Chlamydia infections are notified at much higher rates in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people compared to non-Indigenous people. The Australian Collaboration Chlamydia Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance System (ACCESS) was established to complement population-based surveillance.
We describe patient demographics, completeness of recording of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (‘Aboriginal’) status, chlamydia testing rates and positivity rates from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHSs), General Practice (GP) clinics and Sexual Health Services (SHSs) networks in ACCESS during 2009. Data were extracted from electronic medical records of each participating health service for consultations with patients aged 16–29 years and for chlamydia testing and positivity.
Data were included from 16–29 year olds attending six ACCHSs (n = 4,950); 22 SHSs (n = 20,691) and 25 GP clinics (n = 34,462). Aboriginal status was unknown for 79.3% of patients attending GP clinics, 4.5% attending SHSs and 3.8% of patients attending ACCHSs. Chlamydia testing rates among Aboriginal patients were 19.8% (95%CI:18.6%-21.0%) at ACCHSs, 75.5% (95% CI:72.5%-78.4%) at SHSs and 4.3% (95% CI: 2.6%-6.6%) at GP clinics. Positivity rates were highest in Aboriginal patients tested at SHSs at 22.7% (95% CI:19.5%-26.2%), followed by 15.8% (95% CI:3.8%-43.4%) at GP clinics and 8.6% at ACCHSs (95% CI:7.9%-12.4%). This compared with non-Indigenous patients positivity rates at SHSs of 12.7% (95% CI:12.2-13.2%); 8.6% (7.2%-11.3%) at GP clinics and 11.3% at ACCHSs (95% CI:15.4%-24.9%).
Higher chlamydia positivity in Aboriginal people across a range of clinical services is reflected in national notification data. Targeted efforts are required to improve testing rates in primary care services; to improve identification of Aboriginal patients in mainstream services such as GP clinics; and to better engage with young Aboriginal Australians.
Chlamydia; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; Testing; Positivity; Indigenous; Australia
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher rates of heart disease and type 2 diabetes than non-Indigenous Australian women. Increasing physical activity, improving diets and losing weight have been shown to reduce cardio metabolic risk. The primary aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a 12-week structured exercise and nutrition program in a cohort of urban Indigenous Australian women on waist circumference, weight and biomedical markers of metabolic functioning from baseline (T1) to program completion (T2). The secondary aim assessed whether these outcomes were maintained at 3-month follow-up.
One hundred Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women aged 18–64 years living in the Adelaide metropolitan area were recruited. The program included two 60-minute group cardiovascular and resistance training classes per week, and four nutrition education workshops. Participants were randomly assigned to an ‘active’ group or ‘waitlisted’ control group. Body weight, height, waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1C), lipid profile and C-reactive protein (CRP) were assessed at baseline (T1), immediately after the program (T2) and three months post program (T3).
The active group showed modest reductions in weight and body mass index (BMI). Compared to the waitlisted group, the active group had a statistically significantly change in weight and BMI from baseline assessments; at T2, -1.65 kg and -0.66 kg/m2 and at T3, -2.50 kg and -1.03 kg/m2, respectively. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure also had a statistically significant difference from baseline in the active group compared to the waitlisted group at T2, -1.24 mmHg and -2.46 mmHg and at T3, -4.09 mmHg and -2.17 mmHg, respectively. The findings were independent of the baseline measure of the outcome variable, age, households with children and employment status. Changes in waist circumference and other clinical measures were not significant at T2 or T3. The primary outcome measure, waist circumference, proved problematic to assess reliably. Missing data and participants lost to follow-up were significant.
This 12-week exercise program demonstrated modest reductions in weight, BMI and blood pressure at T2, which improved further at 3-month follow-up (T3). Positive intervention effects were observed despite low attendance at exercise classes. Structured exercise programs implemented in community settings require attention to understanding the barriers to participation for this high risk group.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12610000224022
Aboriginal; Torres strait islander; Physical activity; Women; Lifestyle program; Health promotion
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
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
It is estimated that the prevalence of mental illness is higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents compared to non-Aboriginal adolescents. Despite this, only a small proportion of Aboriginal youth have contact with mental health services, possibly due to factors such as remoteness, language barriers, affordability and cultural sensitivity issues. This research aimed to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for anyone who is providing first aid to an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adolescent who is experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental illness.
A panel of Australian Aboriginal people who are experts in Aboriginal youth mental health, participated in a Delphi study investigating how members of the public can be culturally appropriate when helping an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adolescent with mental health problems. The panel varied in size across the three sequential rounds, from 37–41 participants. Panellists were presented with statements about cultural considerations and communication strategies via online questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional content. All statements endorsed as either Essential or Important by ≥ 90% of panel members were written into a guideline document. To assess the panel members’ satisfaction with the research method, participants were invited to provide their feedback after the final survey.
From a total of 304 statements shown to the panel of experts, 194 statements were endorsed. The methodology was found to be useful and appropriate by the panellists.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth mental health experts were able to reach consensus about what the appropriate communication strategies for providing mental health first aid to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent. These outcomes will help ensure that the community provides the best possible support to Aboriginal adolescents who are developing mental illnesses or are in a mental health crisis.
Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Adolescent; Youth; Mental illness; Mental health; Communication; Delphi method; Expert consensus; Community guidelines
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.
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.
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.
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.
Statistical time series derived from administrative data sets form key indicators in measuring progress in addressing disadvantage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in Australia. However, inconsistencies in the reporting of Indigenous status can cause difficulties in producing reliable indicators. External data sources, such as survey data, provide a means of assessing the consistency of administrative data and may be used to adjust statistics based on administrative data sources.
We used record linkage between a large-scale survey (the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey), and two administrative data sources (the Western Australia (WA) Register of Births and the WA Midwives’ Notification System) to compare the degree of consistency in determining Indigenous status of children between the two sources. We then used a logistic regression model predicting probability of consistency between the two sources to estimate the probability of each record on the two administrative data sources being identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in a survey. By summing these probabilities we produced model-adjusted time series of neonatal outcomes for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander births.
Compared to survey data, information based only on the two administrative data sources identified substantially fewer Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander births. However, these births were not randomly distributed. Births of children identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in the survey only were more likely to be living in urban areas, in less disadvantaged areas, and to have only one parent who identifies as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, particularly the father. They were also more likely to have better health and wellbeing outcomes. Applying an adjustment model based on the linked survey data increased the estimated number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander births in WA by around 25%, however this increase was accompanied by lower overall proportions of low birth weight and low gestational age babies.
Record linkage of survey data to administrative data sets is useful to validate the quality of recording of demographic information in administrative data sources, and such information can be used to adjust for differential identification in administrative data.
General Practitioner (GP) Supervisors have a key yet poorly defined role in
promoting the cultural competence of GP Registrars who provide healthcare to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during their training
placements. Given the markedly poorer health of Indigenous Australians, it
is important that GP training and supervision of Registrars includes
assessment and teaching which address the well documented barriers to
accessing health care.
A simulated consultation between a GP Registrar and an Aboriginal patient,
which illustrated inadequacies in communication and cultural awareness, was
viewed by GP Supervisors and Medical Educators during two workshops in 2012.
Participants documented teaching points arising from the consultation which
they would prioritise in supervision provided to the Registrar. Content
analysis was performed to determine the type and detail of the planned
feedback. Field notes from workshop discussions and participant evaluations
were used to gain insight into participant confidence in cross cultural
Sixty four of 75 GPs who attended the workshops participated in the research.
Although all documented plans for detailed teaching on the Registrar’s
generic communication and consultation skills, only 72% referred to culture
or to the patient’s Aboriginality. Few GPs (8%) documented a plan to
advise on national health initiatives supporting access for Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people. A lack of Supervisor confidence in providing
guidance on cross cultural consulting with Aboriginal patients was
The role of GP Supervisors in promoting the cultural competence of GP
Registrars consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients
could be strengthened. A sole focus on generic communication and
consultation skills may lead to inadequate consideration of the health
disparities faced by Indigenous peoples and of the need to ensure Registrars
utilise health supports designed to decrease the disadvantage faced by
There is considerable potential for health research to contribute to improved health services, programs, and outcomes; the policies of health research funding agencies are critical to achieving health gains from research. The need for research to better address health disparities in Indigenous people has been widely recognised. This paper: (i) describes the policy changes made by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) from 1997 to 2002 to improve funding of Aboriginal health research (ii) examines catalysts for the policy changes (iii) describes the extent to which policy changes were followed by new models of research and (iv) outlines issues for Indigenous health policy in the future.
This study had two parts: (i) semi-structured interviews were conducted over a four -month period with seven individuals who played a leading role in the policy changes at NHMRC during the period 1997–2002, to describe policy changes and to examine the catalysts for the changes; (ii) a case study was undertaken to evaluate projects by recipients of NHMRC People Support awards and NHMRC Capacity Building Grants in Population Health Research to examine the types of research being undertaken five years after the policy changes were implemented. The proposals of these researchers were assessed in terms of whether they reported intending to: evaluate interventions; engage Indigenous community members and organisations; and build research capacity among Indigenous people.
Seven policy changes over a period of five years were identified, including those to: establish an ethical approach to working with Indigenous people; increase the influence of Indigenous people within NHMRC; encourage priority research directed at improving Indigenous health; and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research as a priority area including a commitment to an expenditure target of 5% of annual funds. Seven catalysts for this change were identified. These included: a perceived lack of effective response to the health needs of Indigenous people; a changed perception of the role of NHMRC in encouraging research to maximise health gains; and leadership within the organisation.
The case study analysis demonstrated that 45% of all People Support recipients intend to engage Indigenous community members and organisations in consultation, 26% included an evaluation of an intervention and two (6.5%) were granted to an individual from an Indigenous background. Six of seven Population Health Capacity Building Grants that were awarded to study Indigenous health between 2004 and 2006 included an intervention component; these grants supported 34 researchers from Indigenous backgrounds.
NHMRC made significant policy changes from 1997 to 2002 to better support Indigenous health as a result of external pressure and internal commitment.
The policy changes have made some progress in supporting better research models particularly in improving engagement with Indigenous communities. However, there remains a need for further reform to optimise research outcomes for Indigenous people from research.