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1.  Improving Aboriginal maternal and infant health services in the ‘Top End’ of Australia; synthesis of the findings of a health services research program aimed at engaging stakeholders, developing research capacity and embedding change 
Health services research is a well-articulated research methodology and can be a powerful vehicle to implement sustainable health service reform. This paper presents a summary of a five-year collaborative program between stakeholders and researchers that led to sustainable improvements in the maternity services for remote-dwelling Aboriginal women and their infants in the Top End (TE) of Australia.
A mixed-methods health services research program of work was designed, using a participatory approach. The study area consisted of two large remote Aboriginal communities in the Top End of Australia and the hospital in the regional centre (RC) that provided birth and tertiary care for these communities. The stakeholders included consumers, midwives, doctors, nurses, Aboriginal Health Workers (AHW), managers, policy makers and support staff. Data were sourced from: hospital and health centre records; perinatal data sets and costing data sets; observations of maternal and infant health service delivery and parenting styles; formal and informal interviews with providers and women and focus groups. Studies examined: indicator sets that identify best care, the impact of quality of care and remoteness on health outcomes, discrepancies in the birth counts in a range of different data sets and ethnographic studies of ‘out of hospital’ or health centre birth and parenting. A new model of maternity care was introduced by the health service aiming to improve care following the findings of our research. Some of these improvements introduced during the five-year research program of research were evaluated.
Cost effective improvements were made to the acceptability, quality and outcomes of maternity care. However, our synthesis identified system-wide problems that still account for poor quality of infant services, specifically, unacceptable standards of infant care and parent support, no apparent relationship between volume and acuity of presentations and staff numbers with the required skills for providing care for infants, and an ‘outpatient’ model of care. Services were also characterised by absent Aboriginal leadership and inadequate coordination between remote and tertiary services that is essential to improve quality of care and reduce ‘system-introduced’ risk.
Evidence-informed redesign of maternity services and delivery of care has improved clinical effectiveness and quality for women. However, more work is needed to address substandard care provided for infants and their parents.
PMCID: PMC4057802  PMID: 24890910
Aboriginal; Australian; Indigenous maternity care; Indigenous infant care; Cultural safety; Indigenous health care workforce; Remote health services
2.  Adherence to management guidelines for growth faltering and anaemia in remote dwelling Australian Aboriginal infants and barriers to health service delivery 
Remote dwelling Aboriginal infants from northern Australia have a high burden of disease and frequently use health services. Little is known about the quality of infant care provided by remote health services. This study describes the adherence to infant guidelines for anaemia and growth faltering by remote health staff and barriers to effective service delivery in remote settings.
A mixed method study drew data from 24 semi-structured interviews with clinicians working in two remote communities in northern Australia and a retrospective cohort study of Aboriginal infants from these communities, born 2004–2006 (n = 398). Medical records from remote health centres were audited. The main outcome measures were the period prevalence of infants with anaemia and growth faltering and management of these conditions according to local guidelines. Qualitative data assessed clinicians’ perspectives on barriers to effective remote health service delivery.
Data from 398 health centre records were analysed. Sixty eight percent of infants were anaemic between six and twelve months of age and 42% had documented growth faltering by one year. Analysis of the growth data by the authors however found 86% of infants experienced growth faltering over 12 months. Clinical management and treatment completion was poor for both conditions. High staff turnover, fragmented models of care and staff poorly prepared for their role were barriers perceived by clinicians’ to impact upon the quality of service delivery.
Among Aboriginal infants in northern Australia, malnutrition and anaemia are common and occur early. Diagnosis of growth faltering and clinicians’ adherence to management guidelines for both conditions was poor. Antiquated service delivery models, organisation of staff and rapid staff turnover contributed to poor quality of care. Service redesign, education and staff stability must be a priority to redress serious deficits in quality of care provided for these infants.
PMCID: PMC3750842  PMID: 23819687
Aboriginal; Adherence; Anaemia; Australia; Barriers; Growth faltering; Infant; Management guidelines; Primary health care; Remote; Quality of care
3.  Aboriginal Families Study: a population-based study keeping community and policy goals in mind right from the start 
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.
PMCID: PMC3689616  PMID: 23767813
Antenatal care; Health inequalities; Indigenous health; Maternal health; Participatory research; Perinatal health outcomes
4.  Hospitalisation for gastroenteritis in Western Australia 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2004;89(8):768-772.
Aims: To document gastroenteritis hospitalisations of the 1995–96 cohort of infants born in Western Australia to mid-2002, and to assess factors associated with their hospitalisations and readmissions.
Methods: Retrospective analysis of the State's hospitalisation data, Midwives' Notification of Births data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics mortality data and clinical and demographic information.
Results: Aboriginal infants were hospitalised for gastroenteritis eight times more frequently than their non-Aboriginal peers, and were readmitted more frequently and sooner for diarrhoeal illnesses than the other group. They also stayed in hospital for twice as long and many Aboriginal patients were hospitalised on numerous occasions. Hospitalisation rates were higher in remote areas and were significantly associated with co-morbidities such as undernutrition, anaemia, co-existing infections, and intestinal carbohydrate intolerance.
Conclusions: Gastroenteritis is very prevalent in Australian Aboriginal infants and children and is a major cause of their hospitalisation in Western Australia. It is often associated with undernutrition, anaemia, intestinal parasitic infestations, other infections, intestinal carbohydrate intolerance, and, in some instances, with low birth weight. This is often due to unhygienic living conditions and behaviours and presents major challenges to public health, health promotion, and clinical personnel, particularly paediatric services. Childhood diarrhoeal diseases occur commonly in other indigenous groups but have not received the attention that they deserve.
PMCID: PMC1720021  PMID: 15269080
5.  A retrospective population-based cohort study identifying target areas for prevention of acute lower respiratory infections in children 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:757.
Acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) are a major cause of hospitalisation in young children. Many factors can lead to increased risk of ALRI in children and predispose a child to hospitalisation, but population attributable fractions for different risk factors and how these fractions differ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children is unknown. This study investigates population attributable fractions of known infant and maternal risk factors for ALRI to inform prevention strategies that target high-risk groups or particular risk factors.
A retrospective population-based data linkage study of 245,249 singleton births in Western Australia. Population attributable fractions of known maternal and infant risk factors for hospitalisation with ALRI between 1996 and 2005 were calculated using multiple logistic regression.
The overall ALRI hospitalisation rate was 16.1/1,000 person-years for non-Aboriginal children and 93.0/1,000 for Aboriginal children. Male gender, being born in autumn, gestational age <33 weeks, and multiple previous pregnancies were significant risk factors for ALRI in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. In non-Aboriginal children, maternal smoking during pregnancy accounted for 6.3% (95%CI: 5.0, 7.6) of the population attributable fraction for ALRI, being born in autumn accounted for 12.3% (10.8, 13.8), being born to a mother with three or more previous pregnancies accounted for 15.4% (14.1, 17.0) and delivery by elective caesarean accounted for 4.1% (2.8, 5.3). In Aboriginal children, being born to a mother with three or more previous pregnancies accounted for 16.5% (11.8, 20.9), but remote location at birth accounted for 11.7% (8.5, 14.8), maternal age <20 years accounted for 11.2% (7.8, 14.5), and being in the most disadvantaged socio-economic group accounted for 18.4% (-6.5, 37.4) of the population attributable fraction.
The population attributable fractions estimated in this study should help in guiding public health interventions to prevent ALRI. A key risk factor for all children is maternal smoking during pregnancy, and multiple previous pregnancies and autumnal births are important high-risk groups. Specific key target areas are reducing elective caesareans in non-Aboriginal women and reducing teenage pregnancies and improving access to services and living conditions for the Aboriginal population.
PMCID: PMC3004840  PMID: 21138593
6.  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.
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.
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.
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
PMCID: PMC3847940  PMID: 24016143
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Sexually transmitted infections; Chlamydia; Gonorrhoea; Trichomonas; Continuous quality improvement; Protocol; Prevalence; Remote
7.  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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3346942  PMID: 22556161
8.  The study protocol for a randomized controlled trial of a family-centred tobacco control program about environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to reduce respiratory illness in Indigenous infants 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:114.
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.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12609000937213)
PMCID: PMC2846866  PMID: 20205950
9.  Better health outcomes at lower costs: the benefits of primary care utilisation for chronic disease management in remote Indigenous communities in Australia’s Northern Territory 
Indigenous residents living in remote communities in Australia’s Northern Territory experience higher rates of preventable chronic disease and have poorer access to appropriate health services compared to other Australians. This study compared health outcomes and costs at different levels of primary care utilisation to determine if primary care represents an efficient use of resources for Indigenous patients with common chronic diseases namely hypertension, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and renal disease.
This was an historical cohort study involving a total of 14,184 Indigenous residents, aged 15 years and over, who lived in remote communities and used a remote clinic or public hospital from 2002 to 2011. Individual level demographic and clinical data were drawn from primary care and hospital care information systems using a unique patient identifier. A propensity score was used to improve comparability between high, medium and low primary care utilisation groups. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios and acceptability curves were used to analyse four health outcome measures: total and, avoidable hospital admissions, deaths and years of life lost.
Compared to the low utilisation group, medium and high levels of primary care utilisation were associated with decreases in total and avoidable hospitalisations, deaths and years of life lost. Higher levels of primary care utilisation for renal disease reduced avoidable hospitalisations by 82-85%, deaths 72-75%, and years of life lost 78-81%. For patients with ischaemic heart disease, the reduction in avoidable hospitalisations was 63-78%, deaths 63-66% and years of life lost 69-73%. In terms of cost-effectiveness, primary care for renal disease and diabetes ranked as more cost-effective, followed by hypertension and ischaemic heart disease. Primary care for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was the least cost-effective of the five conditions.
Primary care in remote Indigenous communities was shown to be associated with cost-savings to public hospitals and health benefits to individual patients. Investing $1 in primary care in remote Indigenous communities could save $3.95-$11.75 in hospital costs, in addition to health benefits for individual patients. These findings may have wider applicability in strengthening primary care in the face of high chronic disease prevalence globally.
PMCID: PMC4282496  PMID: 25281064
Indigenous; Northern Territory; Australia; Remote; Chronic disease; Primary care; Cost effectiveness; Hospitalisation; Mortality; YLL
10.  What factors contribute to positive early childhood health and development in Australian Aboriginal children? Protocol for a population-based cohort study using linked administrative data (The Seeding Success Study) 
BMJ Open  2015;5(5):e007898.
Australian Aboriginal children are more likely than non-Aboriginal children to have developmental vulnerability at school entry that tracks through to poorer literacy and numeracy outcomes and multiple social and health disadvantages in later life. Empirical evidence identifying the key drivers of positive early childhood development in Aboriginal children, and supportive features of local communities and early childhood service provision, are lacking.
Methods and analysis
The study population will be identified via linkage of Australian Early Development Census data to perinatal and birth registration data sets. It will include an almost complete population of children who started their first year of full-time school in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, in 2009 and 2012. Early childhood health and development trajectories for these children will be constructed via linkage to a range of administrative data sets relating to birth outcomes, congenital conditions, hospital admissions, emergency department presentations, receipt of ambulatory mental healthcare services, use of general practitioner services, contact with child protection and out-of-home care services, receipt of income assistance and fact of death. Using multilevel modelling techniques, we will quantify the contributions of individual-level and area-level factors to variation in early childhood development outcomes in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. Additionally, we will evaluate the impact of two government programmes that aim to address early childhood disadvantage, the NSW Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service and the Brighter Futures Program. These evaluations will use propensity score matching methods and multilevel modelling.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethical approval has been obtained for this study. Dissemination mechanisms include engagement of stakeholders (including representatives from Aboriginal community controlled organisations, policy agencies, service providers) through a reference group, and writing of summary reports for policy and community audiences in parallel with scientific papers.
PMCID: PMC4442193  PMID: 25986640
11.  A Regional Initiative to Reduce Skin Infections amongst Aboriginal Children Living in Remote Communities of the Northern Territory, Australia 
Linked to extreme rates of chronic heart and kidney disease, pyoderma is endemic amongst Aboriginal children in Australia's Northern Territory (NT). Many of those with pyoderma will also have scabies. We report the results of a community-based collaboration within the East Arnhem Region, which aimed to reduce the prevalence of both skin infections in Aboriginal children.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Commencing September 2004, we conducted an ecological study that included active surveillance for skin infections amongst children aged <15 years in five remote East Arnhem communities over a three year period. Screening was undertaken by trained local community workers, usually accompanied by another project team member, using a standard data collection form. Skin infections were diagnosed clinically with the aid of a pictorial flip chart developed for the purpose. Topical 5% permethrin was provided for age-eligible children and all household contacts whenever scabies was diagnosed, whilst those with pyoderma were referred to the clinic for treatment in accordance with current guidelines. In addition, annual mass scabies treatment (5% permethrin cream) was offered to all community residents in accordance with current guidelines but was not directly observed. Pyoderma and scabies prevalence per month was determined from 6038 skin assessments conducted on 2329 children. Pyoderma prevalence dropped from 46.7% at baseline to a median of 32.4% (IQR 28.9%–41.0%) during the follow-up period – an absolute reduction of 14.7% (IQR 4.7%–16.8%). Compared to the first 18 months of observation, there was an absolute reduction in pyoderma prevalence of 18 cases per 100 children (95%CI −21.0, −16.1, p≤0.001) over the last 18 months. Treatment uptake increased over the same period (absolute difference 13.4%, 95%CI 3.3, 23.6). While scabies prevalence was unchanged, the prevalence of infected scabies (that is with superimposed pyoderma) decreased from 3.7% (95%CI 2.4, 4.9) to 1.5% (95%CI 0.7, 2.2), a relative reduction of 59%.
Although pyoderma prevalence remained unacceptably high, there was a substantial reduction overall with improvements in treatment uptake a critical factor. More acceptable alternatives, such as cotrimoxazole for pyoderma and ivermectin as a community-wide scabicide, warrant further investigation in these settings. We are encouraged by progress made through this work, where local action was led by local community members and primary health care providers with external training and support.
Trial Registration NCT00884728
Author Summary
Skin infections are endemic in many in remote Australian Aboriginal communities and have been linked to very high rates of chronic heart and kidney disease in this population. We report the results of a regional collaboration that aimed to reduce skin infections amongst children aged less than 15 years in five remote communities. The program included annual mass scabies treatment days offered to all residents and routine screening/follow-up of children. Trained community workers helped conduct over 6000 skin assessments on 2329 children over a three year period. Of every 100 children seen at the commencement of the study, 47 were found to have skin sores and many had multiple sores. We demonstrate a reduction both in the number of children with skin sores and in the severity of those sores. On average, of every 100 children seen per month, there were 14 fewer children with skin sores and seven fewer children with multiple sores. Overall improvement in treatment uptake was a critical factor. We found no discernible impact against scabies. While the burden of skin infections remains unacceptably high, we believe the results presented here are a good news story for local action to address a serious public health problem.
PMCID: PMC2775159  PMID: 19936297
12.  A Guide for Health Professionals Working with Aboriginal Peoples: Executive Summary 
to provide Canadian health professionals with a network of information and recommendations regarding Aboriginal health.
health professionals working with Aboriginal individuals and communities in the area of women’s health care.
improved health status of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Appropriateness and accessibility of women’s health services for Aboriginal peoples.
Improved communication and clinical skills of health professionals in the area of Aboriginal health.
Improved quality of relationship between health professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
Improved quality of relationship between health care professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
recommendations are based on expert opinion and a review of the literature. Published references were identified by a Medline search of all review articles, randomized clinical control trials, meta-analyses, and practice guidelines from 1966 to February 1999, using the MeSH headings “Indians, North American or Eskimos” and “Health.”* Subsequently published articles were brought to the attention of the authors in the process of writing and reviewing the document. Ancillary and unpublished references were recommended by members of the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee and the panel of expert reviewers.
information collected was reviewed by the principal author. The social, cultural, political, and historic context of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, systemic barriers regarding the publication of information by Aboriginal authors, the diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and the need for a culturally appropriate and balanced presentation were carefully considered in addition to more traditional scientific evaluation. The majority of information collected consisted of descriptive health and social information and such evaluation tools as the evidence guidelines of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health exam were not appropriate.
Benefits, costs, and harms
utilization of the information and recommendations by Canadian health professionals will enhance understanding, communication, and clinical skills in the area of Aboriginal health. The resulting enhancement of collaborative relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their women’s health providers may contribute to health services that are more appropriate, effective, efficient, and accessible for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The educational process may require an initial investment of time from the health professional.
Recommendations were grouped according to four themes: sociocultural context, health concerns, cross-cultural understanding, and Aboriginal health resources. Health professionals are encouraged to learn the appropriate names, demographics, and traditional geographic territories and language groups of the various Aboriginal groups in Canada. In addition, sensitivity to the impact of colonization and current socioeconomic challenges to the health status of Aboriginal peoples is warranted. Health services for Aboriginal peoples should take place as close to home as possible. Governmental obligations and policies regarding determination are recognized. With respect to health concerns, holistic definitions of health, based on Aboriginal perspectives, are put forward. Aboriginal peoples continue to experience a disproportionate burden of health problems. Health professionals are encouraged to become familiar with several key areas of morbidity and mortality. Relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their care providers need to be based on a foundation of mutual respect. Gaps and barriers in the current health care system for Aboriginal peoples are identified. Health professionals are encouraged to work with Aboriginal individuals and communities to address these gaps and barriers. Aboriginal peoples require culturally appropriate health care, including treatment in their own languages when possible. This may require interpreters or Aboriginal health advocates. Health professionals are encouraged to recognize the importance of family and community roles, and to respect traditional medicines and healers. Health professionals can develop their sensitivities towards Aboriginal peoples by participating in workshops, making use of educational resources, and by spending time with Aboriginal peoples in their communities. Aboriginal communities and health professionals are encouraged to support community-based, community-directed health services and health research for Aboriginal peoples. In addition, the education of more Aboriginal health professionals is essential. The need for a preventative approach to health programming in Aboriginal communities is stressed.
recommendations were reviewed and revised by the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee, a panel of expert reviewers, and the SOGC Council. In addition, this document was also reviewed and supported by the Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Canadian Paediatric Society, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Federation of Medical Women of Canada, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, Metis National Council, National Indian and Inuit Community Health Representatives Organization, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
PMCID: PMC3653835  PMID: 23682204 CAMSID: cams2752
13.  Absent otoacoustic emissions predict otitis media in young Aboriginal children: A birth cohort study in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in an arid zone of Western Australia 
BMC Pediatrics  2008;8:32.
Otitis media (OM) is the most common paediatric illness for which antibiotics are prescribed. In Australian Aboriginal children OM is frequently asymptomatic and starts at a younger age, is more common and more likely to result in hearing loss than in non-Aboriginal children. Absent transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) may predict subsequent risk of OM.
100 Aboriginal and 180 non-Aboriginal children in a semi-arid zone of Western Australia were followed regularly from birth to age 2 years. Tympanometry was conducted at routine field follow-up from age 3 months. Routine clinical examination by an ENT specialist was to be done 3 times and hearing assessment by an audiologist twice. TEOAEs were measured at ages <1 and 1–2 months. Cox proportional hazards model was used to investigate the association between absent TEOAEs and subsequent risk of OM.
At routine ENT specialist clinics, OM was detected in 55% of 184 examinations in Aboriginal children and 26% of 392 examinations in non-Aboriginal children; peak prevalence was 72% at age 5–9 months in Aboriginal children and 40% at 10–14 months in non-Aboriginal children. Moderate-severe hearing loss was present in 32% of 47 Aboriginal children and 7% of 120 non-Aboriginal children aged 12 months or more.
TEOAE responses were present in 90% (46/51) of Aboriginal children and 99% (120/121) of non-Aboriginal children aged <1 month and in 62% (21/34) and 93% (108/116), respectively, in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children at age 1–2 months. Aboriginal children who failed TEOAE at age 1–2 months were 2.6 times more likely to develop OM subsequently than those who passed.
Overall prevalence of type B tympanograms at field follow-up was 50% (n = 78) in Aboriginal children and 20% (n = 95) in non-Aboriginal children.
The burden of middle ear disease is high in all children, but particularly in Aboriginal children, one-third of whom suffer from moderate-severe hearing loss. In view of the frequently silent nature of OM, every opportunity must be taken to screen for OM. Measurement of TEOAEs at age 1–2 months to identify children at risk of developing OM should be evaluated in a routine health service setting.
PMCID: PMC2538518  PMID: 18755038
14.  Incidence and Clinical Characteristics of Group A Rotavirus Infections among Children Admitted to Hospital in Kilifi, Kenya  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e153.
Rotavirus, predominantly of group A, is a major cause of severe diarrhoea worldwide, with the greatest burden falling on young children living in less-developed countries. Vaccines directed against this virus have shown promise in recent trials, and are undergoing effectiveness evaluation in sub-Saharan Africa. In this region limited childhood data are available on the incidence and clinical characteristics of severe group A rotavirus disease. Advocacy for vaccine intervention and interpretation of effectiveness following implementation will benefit from accurate base-line estimates of the incidence and severity of rotavirus paediatric admissions in relevant populations. The study objective was to accurately define the incidence and severity of group A rotavirus disease in a resource-poor setting necessary to make informed decisions on the need for vaccine prevention.
Methods and Findings
Between 2002 and 2004 we conducted prospective surveillance for group A rotavirus infection at Kilifi District Hospital in coastal Kenya. Children < 13 y of age were eligible as “cases” if admitted with diarrhoea, and “controls” if admitted without diarrhoea. We calculated the incidence of hospital admission with group A rotavirus using data from a demographic surveillance study of 220,000 people in Kilifi District. Of 15,347 childhood admissions 3,296 (22%) had diarrhoea, 2,039 were tested for group A rotavirus antigen and, of these, 588 (29%) were positive. 372 (63%) rotavirus-positive cases were infants. Of 620 controls 19 (3.1%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.9–4.7) were rotavirus positive. The annual incidence (per 100,000 children) of rotavirus-positive admissions was 1,431 (95% CI 1,275–1,600) in infants and 478 (437–521) in under-5-y-olds, and highest proximal to the hospital. Compared to children with rotavirus-negative diarrhoea, rotavirus-positive cases were less likely to have coexisting illnesses and more likely to have acidosis (46% versus 17%) and severe electrolyte imbalance except hyponatraemia. In-hospital case fatality was 2% among rotavirus-positive and 9% among rotavirus-negative children.
In Kilifi > 2% of children are admitted to hospital with group A rotavirus diarrhoea in the first 5 y of life. This translates into over 28,000 vaccine-preventable hospitalisations per year across Kenya, and is likely to be a considerable underestimate. Group A rotavirus diarrhoea is associated with acute life-threatening metabolic derangement in otherwise healthy children. Although mortality is low in this clinical research setting this may not be generally true in African hospitals lacking rapid and appropriate management.
Combining prospective hospital-based surveillance with demographic data in Kilifi, Kenya, James Nokes and colleagues assess the burden of rotavirus diarrhea in young children.
Editors' Summary
Rotavirus is a leading global cause of diarrhea in babies and young children. Indeed, most children become infected at least once with this virus before their fifth birthday. Rotavirus is usually spread by children or their caregivers failing to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet and then contaminating food or drink. The symptoms of rotavirus infection—diarrhea, vomiting, and fever—are usually mild, but if the diarrhea is severe it can quickly lead to dehydration. Mild to moderate dehydration can be treated at home by providing the patient with plenty of fluids or with a special rehydration drink that replaces lost water and salts. However, for infants or toddlers who become severely dehydrated, rehydration with intravenous fluids (fluids injected directly into a vein) in hospital may be essential. Unfortunately, in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, this treatment is not widely available and every year more than half a million young children die from rotavirus infections.
Why Was This Study Done?
Two rotavirus vaccines that could reduce this burden of disease are currently undergoing clinical trials to determine their effectiveness in sub-Saharan Africa. However, very little is known about the incidence of severe rotavirus infections among children living in this region (that is, how many children develop severe disease every year) or about the clinical characteristics of the disease here. Public-health officials need this baseline information before they can make informed decisions about the mass introduction of rotavirus vaccination and to help them judge whether the intervention has been successful if it is introduced. In this study, the researchers examine the incidence and clinical characteristics of rotavirus infections (specifically, group A rotavirus [GARV] infections; there are several different rotaviruses but GARV causes most human infections) among children admitted to the district hospital in Kilifi, Kenya.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
During the 3-year study, more than 15,000 children under the age of 13 years were admitted to Kilifi District Hospital, a little under a quarter of whom had severe diarrhea. Nearly a third of the patients admitted with diarrhea who were tested had a GARV-specific protein in their stools (faeces); by contrast, only three in 100 children admitted without diarrhea showed any evidence of GARV infection. Two-thirds of the GARV-positive children were infants (under 1 year old). Using these figures and health surveillance data (records of births, deaths, and causes of death) collected in the area around the hospital, the researchers calculated that the annual incidence (per 100,000 children) of GARV-positive hospital admissions in the region was 1,431 for infants and 478 for children under age 5 years. Children with GARV-positive diarrhea were less likely to have other illnesses (for example, malnutrition) than those admitted with GARV-negative diarrhea, the researchers report, but were more likely to have life-threatening complications such as severe dehydration and salt imbalances in their blood. However, despite being more ill on admission, only 1 in 50 children with GARV-positive diarrhea died, compared to nearly 1 in 10 of the children with GARV-negative diarrhea; the GARV-positive children also left hospital quicker than those who were GARV-negative.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that severe GARV-positive diarrhea is a major cause of hospital admission among otherwise healthy young children in the Kilifi region of Kenya. By the time they are 5 years old, the researchers estimate that 1 in 50 of the children living in this region will have been admitted to hospital with severe GARV-positive diarrhea. Because rotavirus vaccines prevent virtually all severe rotavirus-associated disease (at least in developed countries where their effectiveness has been extensively tested), the researchers estimate that vaccination might prevent more than 28,000 hospitalizations annually across Kenya; however, this prediction assumes that it is valid to extrapolate from the data obtained from this one district hospital to the entire country.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about rotavirus infections, surveillance, and vaccination (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia provides information on rotavirus infections
MedlinePlus also provides links to information on rotavirus (in English and Spanish)
The African Rotavirus Surveillance Network is working to improve knowledge about rotavirus infections in Africa
The Rotavirus Vaccine Program aims to reduce child illness and death from diarrhea by increasing the availability of rotavirus vaccines in developing countries (in English and Spanish)
PATH, a nonprofit international organization that aims to create sustainable, culturally relevant solutions to global health problems, also provides detailed information on rotavirus surveillance and disease burden
PMCID: PMC2488191  PMID: 18651787
15.  Prevalence of asthma and risk factors for asthma-like symptoms in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in the northern territories of Canada 
Few studies have investigated the prevalence and risk factors of asthma in Canadian Aboriginal children.
To determine the prevalence of asthma and asthma-like symptoms, as well as the risk factors for asthma-like symptoms, in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in the northern territories of Canada.
Data on 2404 children, aged between 0 and 11 years, who participated in the North component of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth were used in the present study. A child was considered to have an asthma-like symptom if there was a report of ever having had asthma, asthma attacks or wheeze in the past 12 months.
After excluding 59 children with missing information about race, 1399 children (59.7%) were of Aboriginal ancestry. The prevalence of asthma was significantly lower (P<0.05) in Aboriginal children (5.7%) than non-Aboriginal children (10.0%), while the prevalence of wheeze was similar between Aboriginal (15.0%) and non-Aboriginal (14.5%) children. In Aboriginal children, infants and toddlers had a significantly greater prevalence of asthma-like symptoms (30.0%) than preschool-aged children (21.5%) and school-aged children (11.5%). Childhood allergy and a mother’s daily smoking habit were significant risk factors for asthma-like symptoms in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. In addition, infants and toddlers were at increased risk of asthma-like symptoms in Aboriginal children. In analyses restricted to specific outcomes, a mother’s daily smoking habit was a significant risk factor for current wheeze in Aboriginal children and for ever having had asthma in non-Aboriginal children.
Asthma prevalence appears to be lower in Aboriginal children than in non-Aboriginal children. The association between daily maternal smoking and asthma-like symptoms, which has been mainly reported for children living in urban areas, was observed in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in northern and remote communities in Canada.
PMCID: PMC2677938  PMID: 18437256
Aboriginals; Asthma; Children; Remote area; Risk factors; Smoking
16.  A randomised trial of point-of-care tests for chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections in remote Aboriginal communities: Test, Treat ANd GO- the “TTANGO” trial protocol 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2013;13:485.
High prevalence rates of Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) have been reported in Aboriginal people in remote and regional areas of Australia for well over two decades, and repeat positivity rates are high. To interrupt disease transmission and reduce the risk of complications, early diagnosis and treatment is important. However in many remote and regional areas there are long delays between testing for these curable sexually transmissible infections and providing treatment, due to both physical distance from laboratories and difficulties when recalling patients for subsequent management once results are available. Point-of-care (POC) tests have the potential to provide more timely diagnosis, to increase treatment and contact tracing, and in turn reduce CT and NG infection rates.
TTANGO (Test, Treat, ANd GO) is a cross-over cluster randomised controlled trial in 12 regional or remote Australian health services, which predominantly provide clinical services to Aboriginal people. The overall aim of TTANGO is to measure the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and cultural and operational acceptability of molecular POC testing for CT and NG infection. The primary outcome is repeat positivity at three months after treatment of an initial CT or NG infection.
Participating health services will undertake the clinical management of CT and NG under two different modalities for one year each. In the first year, six health services will be randomly assigned to manage these infections under current diagnostic guidelines. The other six will supplement current diagnostic guidelines with POC testing, whereby diagnosis is made and subsequent treatment for those with positive POC tests is offered at the initial consultation. In the second year, the health services will cross over to the opposite management modality.
TTANGO will be conducted over four years; 1.5 years of trial initiation and community consultation, 2 years of trial conditions and evaluation, and 6 months of data analysis and feedback.
TTANGO is the first cluster randomised trial of POC testing for CT and NG internationally. The results of this trial will provide crucial information to guide sexual health clinical practice in remote Aboriginal communities and other high prevalence settings.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613000808741
PMCID: PMC4231474  PMID: 24138699
Point-of-care testing; Sexually transmitted infections; Randomized controlled trial
17.  Mortality after admission for acute myocardial infarction in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in New South Wales, Australia: a multilevel data linkage study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:281.
Heart disease is a leading cause of the gap in burden of disease between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Our study investigated short- and long-term mortality after admission for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people admitted with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) to public hospitals in New South Wales, Australia, and examined the impact of the hospital of admission on outcomes.
Admission records were linked to mortality records for 60047 patients aged 25–84 years admitted with a diagnosis of AMI between July 2001 and December 2008. Multilevel logistic regression was used to estimate adjusted odds ratios (AOR) for 30- and 365-day all-cause mortality.
Aboriginal patients admitted with an AMI were younger than non-Aboriginal patients, and more likely to be admitted to lower volume, remote hospitals without on-site angiography. Adjusting for age, sex, year and hospital, Aboriginal patients had a similar 30-day mortality risk to non-Aboriginal patients (AOR: 1.07; 95% CI 0.83-1.37) but a higher risk of dying within 365 days (AOR: 1.34; 95% CI 1.10-1.63). The latter difference did not persist after adjustment for comorbid conditions (AOR: 1.12; 95% CI 0.91-1.38). Patients admitted to more remote hospitals, those with lower patient volume and those without on-site angiography had increased risk of short and long-term mortality regardless of Aboriginal status.
Improving access to larger hospitals and those with specialist cardiac facilities could improve outcomes following AMI for all patients. However, major efforts to boost primary and secondary prevention of AMI are required to reduce the mortality gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
PMCID: PMC3481361  PMID: 22490109
Hospital performance; Acute myocardial infarction; Ischaemic heart disease; Aboriginal health; Health outcomes; Multilevel modelling; Data linkage
18.  Mortality in an Aboriginal Medical Service (Redfern) cohort 
Published estimates of Aboriginal mortality and life expectancy (LE) for the eastern Australian states are derived from demographic modelling techniques to estimate the population and extent of under-recording of Aboriginality in death registration. No reliable empirical information on Aboriginal mortality and LE exists for New South Wales (NSW), the most populous Australian state in which 29% of Aboriginal people reside.
This paper estimates mortality and LE in a large, mainly metropolitan cohort of Aboriginal clients from the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) Redfern, Sydney, NSW.
Identifying information from patient records accrued by the AMS Redfern since 1980 of definitely Aboriginal clients, without distinction between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (n=24,035), was extracted and linked to the National Death Index (NDI) at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Age-specific mortality rates and LEs for each sex were estimated using the AMS patient population as the denominator, discounted for deaths. Directly age-standardised mortality and LEs were estimated for 1995–1999, 2000–2004 and 2005–2009, along with 95% confidence intervals. Comparisons were made with other estimates of Aboriginal mortality and LE and with the total Australian population.
Mortality declined in the AMS Redfern cohort over 1995–2009, and the decline occurred mostly in the ≤44 year age range. Male LE at birth was estimated to be 64.4 years (95%CI:62.6-66.1) in 1995–1999, 65.6 years (95%CI:64.1-67.1) in 2000–2004, and 67.6 years (95%CI:65.9-69.2) for 2005–2009. In females, these LE estimates were 69.6 (95%CI:68.0-71.2), 71.1 (95%CI:69.9-72.4), and 71.4 (95%CI:70.0-72.8) years. LE in the AMS cohort was 11 years lower for males and 12 years lower for females than corresponding all-Australia LEs for the same periods. These were similar to estimates for Australian Aboriginal people overall for the same period by the Aboriginal Burden of Disease for 2009, using the General Growth Balance (GGB) model approach, and by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for 2005–2007. LE in the AMS cohort was somewhat lower than these estimates for NSW Aboriginal people, and higher than ABS 2005–2007 estimates for Aboriginal people from Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia.
The AMS Redfern cohort has provided the first empirically based estimates of mortality and LE trends in a large sample of Aboriginal people from NSW.
PMCID: PMC3602118  PMID: 23391275
19.  Kidney disease in Aboriginal Australians: a perspective from the Northern Territory 
Clinical Kidney Journal  2014;7(6):524-530.
This article outlines the increasing awareness, service development and research in renal disease in Aboriginal people in Australia's Northern Territory, among whom the rates of renal replacement therapy (RRT) are among the highest in the world. Kidney failure and RRT dominate the intellectual landscape and consume the most professional energy, but the underlying kidney disease has recently swung into view, with increasing awareness of its connection to other chronic diseases and to health profiles and trajectories more broadly. Albuminuria is the marker of the underlying kidney disease and the best treatment target, and glomerulomegaly and focal glomerulosclerosis are the defining histologic features. Risk factors in its multideterminant genesis reflect nutritional and developmental disadvantage and inflammatory/infectious milieu, while the major putative genetic determinants still elude detection. A culture shift of “chronic disease prevention” has been catalyzed in part by the human pain, logistic problems and great costs associated with RRT. Nowadays chronic disease management is the central focus of indigenous primary care, with defined protocols for integrated testing and management of chronic diseases and with government reimbursed service items and free medicines for people in remote areas. Blood pressure, cardiovascular risk and chronic kidney disease (CKD) are all mitigated by good treatment, which centres on renin-angiotensin system blockade and good metabolic control. RRT incidence rates appear to be stabilizing in remote Aboriginal people, and chronic disease deaths rates are falling. However, the profound levels of disadvantage in many remote settings remain appalling, and there is still much to be done, mostly beyond the direct reach of health services.
PMCID: PMC4240408  PMID: 25503952
20.  Quality improvement in practice: improving diabetes care and patient outcomes in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services 
Management of chronic disease, including diabetes, is a central focus of most Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) in Australia. We have previously demonstrated that diabetes monitoring and outcomes can be improved and maintained over a 10-year period at Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS). While continuous quality improvement (CQI) has been shown to improve service delivery rates and clinical outcome measures, the process of interpreting audit results and developing strategies for improvement is less well described. This paper describes the evaluation of care of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and features of effective CQI in ACCHSs in the remote Kimberley region of north Western Australia.
Retrospective audit of records for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary care patients aged ≥15 years with a confirmed diagnosis of T2DM at four Kimberley ACCHSs from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012. Interviews with health service staff and focus group discussions with patients post audit. Main outcome measures: diabetes care related activities, clinical outcome measures and factors influencing good diabetes related care and effective CQI.
A total of 348 patients from the four ACCHSs were included in the study. Clinical care activities were generally high across three of the four health services (at least 71% of patients had cholesterol recorded, 89% blood pressure, 84% HbA1c). Patients from DAHS had lower median cholesterol levels (4.4 mmol/L) and the highest proportion of patients meeting clinical targets for HbA1c (31% v 16% ACCHS-3; P = 0.02). Features that facilitated good care included clearly defined staff roles for diabetes management, support and involvement of Aboriginal Health Workers, efficient recall systems, and well-coordinated allied health services. Effective CQI features included seamless and timely data collection, local ownership of the process, openness to admitting deficiencies and willingness to embrace change.
Well-designed health care delivery and CQI systems, with a strong sense of ownership over diabetes management led to increased service delivery rates and improved clinical outcome measures in ACCHSs. Locally run CQI processes may be more responsive to individual health services and more sustainable than externally driven systems.
PMCID: PMC4282197  PMID: 25288282
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Diabetes; Quality improvement cycles; Primary health care
21.  Community health workers improve diabetes care in remote Australian Indigenous communities: results of a pragmatic cluster randomized controlled trial 
Health outcomes for Indigenous Australians with diabetes in remote areas remain poor, including high rates of avoidable complications which could be reduced with better primary level care. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a community-based health-worker led case management approach to the care of Indigenous adults with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes in primary care services in remote northern Australia.
Two hundred and thirteen adults with poorly controlled diabetes (HbA1c > 8.5%) and significant comorbidities in 12 remote communities were randomly assigned by service cluster to receive chronic care co-ordination from a community-based health worker supported by a clinical outreach team, or to a waitlist control group which received usual care.
At baseline, mean age of participants was 47.9 years, 62.4% were female, half were Aboriginal and half identified as Torres Strait Islander, 67% had less than 12 years of education, 39% were smokers, median income was $18,200 and 47% were unemployed. Mean HbA1c was 10.7% (93 mmol/mol) and BMI 32.5. At follow-up after 18 months, HbA1c reduction was significantly greater in the intervention group (−1.0% vs −0.2%, SE (diff) = 0.2, p = 0.02). There were no significant differences between the groups for blood pressure, lipid profile, BMI or renal function. Intervention group participants were more likely to receive nutrition and dental services according to scheduled care plans. Smoking rates were unchanged.
A culturally safe, community level health-worker led model of diabetes care for high risk patients can be effective in improving diabetes control in remote Indigenous Australian communities where there is poor access to mainstream services. This approach can be effective in other remote settings, but requires longer term evaluation to capture accrued benefits.
Trial registration
ANZCTR 12610000812099, Registered 29 September 2010.
PMCID: PMC4337108  PMID: 25884300
Type 2 diabetes; Australian aboriginal adults; Primary health care; Indigenous health workers
22.  Voting with their feet - predictors of discharge against medical advice in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ischaemic heart disease inpatients in Western Australia: an analytic study using data linkage 
Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) from hospital is associated with adverse outcomes and is considered an indicator of the responsiveness of hospitals to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the indigenous people of Australia. We investigated demographic and clinical factors that predict DAMA in patients experiencing their first-ever inpatient admission for ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The study focuses particularly on the differences in the risk of DAMA in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients while also investigating other factors in their own right.
A cross-sectional analytical study was undertaken using linked hospital and mortality data with complete coverage of Western Australia. Participants included all first-ever IHD inpatients (aged 25–79 years) admitted between 2005 and 2009, selected after a 15-year clearance period and who were discharged alive. The main outcome measure was DAMA as reflected in the hospital record.
Multiple logistic regression was used to determine disparities in DAMA between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients, adjusting for a range of demographic and clinical factors, including comorbidity based on 5-year hospitalization history. A series of additional models were run on subgroups of the cohort to refine the analysis. Ethics approval was granted by the WA Human Research and the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committees.
Aboriginal patients comprised 4.3% of the cohort of 37,304 IHD patients and 23% of the 224 DAMAs. Emergency admission (OR=5.9, 95% CI 2.9-12.2), alcohol admission history (alcohol-related OR=2.9, 95% CI 2.0-4.2) and Aboriginality (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5-3.5) were the strongest predictors of DAMA in the multivariate model. Patients living in rural areas while attending non-metropolitan hospitals had a 50% higher risk of DAMA than those living and hospitalised in metropolitan areas. There was consistency in the ORs for Aboriginality in the different multivariate models using restricted sub-cohorts and different Aboriginal identifiers. Sex, IHD diagnosis type and co-morbidity scores imparted different risks in Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal patients.
Understanding the risks and reasons for DAMA is important for health system policy and proactive management of those at risk of DAMA. Improving care to prevent DAMA should target unplanned admissions, rural hospitals and young men, Aboriginal people and those with alcohol and mental health comorbidities.
PMCID: PMC3765140  PMID: 23962275
Discharge against medical advice; Aboriginal health; Ischaemic Heart Disease; Linked data; Australia
23.  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
24.  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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
PMCID: PMC3845074  PMID: 24285631
Epidemiology; Public Health
25.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079

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