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.
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.
Australian Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders (Indigenous Australians) smoke at much higher rates than non-Indigenous people and smoking is an important contributor to increased disease, hospital admissions and deaths in Indigenous Australian populations. Smoking cessation programs in Australia have not had the same impact on Indigenous smokers as on non-Indigenous smokers. This paper describes the protocol for a study that aims to test the efficacy of a locally-tailored, intensive, multidimensional smoking cessation program.
This study is a parallel, randomised, controlled trial. Participants are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers aged 16 years and over, who are randomly allocated to a 'control' or 'intervention' group in a 2:1 ratio. Those assigned to the 'intervention' group receive smoking cessation counselling at face-to-face visits, weekly for the first four weeks, monthly to six months and two monthly to 12 months. They are also encouraged to attend a monthly smoking cessation support group. The 'control' group receive 'usual care' (i.e. they do not receive the smoking cessation program). Aboriginal researchers deliver the intervention, the goal of which is to help Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders quit smoking. Data collection occurs at baseline (when they enrol) and at six and 12 months after enrolling. The primary outcome is self-reported smoking cessation with urinary cotinine confirmation at 12 months.
Stopping smoking has been described as the single most important individual change Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers could make to improve their health. Smoking cessation programs are a major priority in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and evidence for effective approaches is essential for policy development and resourcing. A range of strategies have been used to encourage Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders to quit smoking however there have been few good quality studies that show what approaches work best. More evidence of strategies that could work more widely in Indigenous primary health care settings is needed if effective policy is to be developed and implemented. Our project will make an important contribution in this area.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12608000604303)
Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Randomised controlled trial; Smoking cessation; Study protocol; Be Our Ally Beat Smoking (BOABS) Study
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.
Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) from hospital is associated with adverse outcomes and is considered an indicator of the responsiveness of hospitals to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the indigenous people of Australia. We investigated demographic and clinical factors that predict DAMA in patients experiencing their first-ever inpatient admission for ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The study focuses particularly on the differences in the risk of DAMA in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients while also investigating other factors in their own right.
A cross-sectional analytical study was undertaken using linked hospital and mortality data with complete coverage of Western Australia. Participants included all first-ever IHD inpatients (aged 25–79 years) admitted between 2005 and 2009, selected after a 15-year clearance period and who were discharged alive. The main outcome measure was DAMA as reflected in the hospital record.
Multiple logistic regression was used to determine disparities in DAMA between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients, adjusting for a range of demographic and clinical factors, including comorbidity based on 5-year hospitalization history. A series of additional models were run on subgroups of the cohort to refine the analysis. Ethics approval was granted by the WA Human Research and the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committees.
Aboriginal patients comprised 4.3% of the cohort of 37,304 IHD patients and 23% of the 224 DAMAs. Emergency admission (OR=5.9, 95% CI 2.9-12.2), alcohol admission history (alcohol-related OR=2.9, 95% CI 2.0-4.2) and Aboriginality (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5-3.5) were the strongest predictors of DAMA in the multivariate model. Patients living in rural areas while attending non-metropolitan hospitals had a 50% higher risk of DAMA than those living and hospitalised in metropolitan areas. There was consistency in the ORs for Aboriginality in the different multivariate models using restricted sub-cohorts and different Aboriginal identifiers. Sex, IHD diagnosis type and co-morbidity scores imparted different risks in Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal patients.
Understanding the risks and reasons for DAMA is important for health system policy and proactive management of those at risk of DAMA. Improving care to prevent DAMA should target unplanned admissions, rural hospitals and young men, Aboriginal people and those with alcohol and mental health comorbidities.
Discharge against medical advice; Aboriginal health; Ischaemic Heart Disease; Linked data; Australia
The aim of this work was to determine the feasibility of improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status recording for notifiable diseases using all Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD) notifications in a regional area of New South Wales, Australia.
In Australia people with IPD are nearly always admitted to hospital and their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status is recorded. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status was determined for IPD notifications by referring to the routine hospital admission data in a regional area of New South Wales, Australia.
There were 234 notifications in the regional area of Hunter New England during the period 2007–2009. Initially, 168 (72%) notifications had Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status recorded. After referring to the routine hospital admission data, the recorded status increased to 232 (99%). Updating the surveillance data required less than five minutes per notification.
Referring to routine hospital admission data proved a useful and time-efficient surveillance strategy to increase the proportion of notifications with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. These data can then be used to better understand the current epidemiology of IPD. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–4 years have a two- to threefold higher rate of invasive pneumococcal disease than non-Aboriginal children, thus high levels of timely pneumococcal immunization coverage remain important for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
This article outlines the meaningful participation of eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members employed as community researchers investigating the impact of pandemic influenza in rural and remote Indigenous communities in Australia. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation is now a requirement of health research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. There is a growing literature on the different approaches to such involvement. Fundamental to this literature is an acknowledgement that Indigenous communities are no longer prepared to be research objects for external, mostly non-Indigenous researchers, and demand a role in decisions about what is researched and how it will be researched. In this paper, we describe the protracted process for site identification and recruitment and training of community researchers. We focus on the backgrounds of the Indigenous researchers and their motivations for involvement, and the strengths and challenges posed by Indigenous people researching in their own communities. Throughout the paper our concern is to document how genuine participation and the building of research capacity can occur.
A key feature of the research was the employment, training and strengthening the capacity of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in the role of community researchers. A series of training workshops were conducted in northern Australia and focussed on qualitative research methods, including data collection, data analysis and writing. The Indigenous researchers collected the community-based data, and worked in partnership with experienced academic researchers in the analysis and compilation of community reports. Parts of those community reports, as well as additional information supplied by the community researchers, forms the basis of this article. As the demand increases for involvement of Indigenous community members as researchers, focus needs to be paid to what constitutes meaningful participation. If active participation in all aspects of the research process is intended, this necessitates close attention to the knowledge and skills required for this to occur at every stage. Building research capacity means not simply equipping local people to undertake research on a particular project, but to have the knowledge and skills to undertake research in other areas.
There are considerable benefits for Indigenous people researching in their own communities. Most important for the community researchers on this project was the sense that they were doing important health work, not just conducting research. Given the persistent gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health, this is perhaps one of the most important contributions of this type of research. Whilst research outcomes are undoubtedly important, in many cases the process used is of greater importance.
Indigenous; Participatory action research; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Participation
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.
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
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
Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of premature death of Indigenous Australians, and despite evidence that cardiac rehabilitation (CR) and secondary prevention can reduce recurrent disease and deaths, CR uptake is suboptimal. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines Strengthening Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, published in 2005, provide checklists for services to assist them to reduce the service gap for Indigenous people. This study describes health professionals' awareness, implementation, and perspectives of barriers to implementation of these guidelines based on semi-structured interviews conducted between November 2007 and June 2008 with health professionals involved in CR within mainstream health services in Western Australia (WA). Twenty-four health professionals from 17 services (10 rural, 7 metropolitan) listed in the WA Directory of CR services were interviewed.
The majority of respondents reported that they were unfamiliar with the NHMRC guidelines and as a consequence implementation of the recommendations was minimal and inconsistently applied. Respondents reported that they provided few in-patient CR-related services to Indigenous patients, services upon discharge were erratic, and they had few Indigenous-specific resources for patients. Issues relating to workforce, cultural competence, and service linkages emerged as having most impact on design and delivery of CR services for Indigenous people in WA.
This study has demonstrated limited awareness and poor implementation in WA of the recommendations of the NHMRC Strengthening Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: A Guide for Health Professionals. The disproportionate burden of CVD morbidity and mortality among Indigenous Australians mandates urgent attention to this problem and alternative approaches to CR delivery. Dedicated resources and alternative approaches to CR delivery for Indigenous Australians are needed.
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
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.
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.
To describe the maternity care experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women in Queensland, Australia and to identify areas for policy and practice improvements.
A culturally-tailored survey requesting both quantitative and qualitative information was completed by respondents either independently (online or in hard copy) or with the assistance of a trained peer-interviewer. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis.
Eligible women were over 16 years of age, identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, resided in Queensland, and had a live, singleton birth between the first of July 2011 and the first of July 2012.
187 women of 207 respondents were included in analyses. Women reported high rates of stressful life events in pregnancy, low levels of choice in place of birth and model of care and limited options to carry out cultural practices. High levels of confidence in parenting were also reported. Women were less likely to report being treated with kindness, understanding and respect by maternity care staff than women answering a similar mainstream survey.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have additional needs to mainstream Australian women. This study identified a number of recommendations to improve services including the need to enhance the cultural competence of maternity services; increase access to continuity of midwifery care models, facilitate more choices in care, work with the strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, families and communities, and engage women in the design and delivery of care.
Birthing on country; Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Maternity care
Problems with substance use are common in some Aboriginal communities. Although problems with substance use are associated with significant mortality and morbidity, many people who experience them do not seek help. Training in mental health first aid has been shown to be effective in increasing knowledge of symptoms and behaviours associated with seeking help. The current study aimed to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for providing mental health first aid to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is experiencing problem drinking or problem drug use (e.g. abuse or dependence).
Twenty-eight Aboriginal health experts participated in two independent Delphi studies (n = 22 problem drinking study, n = 21 problem drug use; 15 participated in both). Panellists were presented with statements about possible first aid actions via online questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional actions not covered by the content. Statements were accepted for inclusion in the guidelines if they were endorsed by ≥ 90% of panellists as either 'Essential' or 'Important'. At the end of the two Delphi studies, participants were asked to give feedback on the value of the project and their participation experience.
From a total of 735 statements presented over two studies, 429 were endorsed (223 problem drinking, 206 problem drug use). Statements were grouped into sections based on common themes (n = 7 problem drinking, n = 8 problem drug use), then written into guideline documents. Participants evaluated the Delphi method employed, and the guidelines developed, as useful and appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Aboriginal health experts were able to reach consensus about culturally appropriate first aid for problems with substance use. Many first aid actions endorsed in the current studies were not endorsed in previous international Delphi studies, conducted on problem drinking and problem drug use in non-Indigenous people, highlighting the need for culturally specific first aid strategies to be employed when assisting Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
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
Regular cannabis use is associated with negative mental health impacts including psychosis, depression and anxiety. Rates of cannabis use have increased in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in northern Australia within the last two decades, presenting a significant increased risk to young people's mental health in these regions. Improved screening, early detection and treatment for cannabis-related mental health issues are urgently required. This paper describes a service-level action research intervention and evaluation protocol for use in the few services where it is possible to engage young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
The protocol is being developed in two services where youth mental health is core business: a primary healthcare centre and a youth service in the Cairns and hinterland region, far north Queensland. The protocol calls first for baseline data to be collected using staff and client surveys; network mapping; and analysis of screening, treatment and referral rates. The protocol's intervention phase is driven by service needs identified from baseline data. Intervention strategies focus on implementing/enhancing cannabis screening instruments and processes in line with current best practice; enhancing networks with external drug and mental health services; developing culturally acceptable training and resources; developing activities aiming to reduce cannabis use in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients using the services. The protocol requires implementation of the multilevel intervention within each service for 1 year, with follow-up data then collected and compared to baseline. Process evaluation identifies the more effective intervention strategies and documents the challenges to be overcome for full implementation.
Ethics and dissemination
Ethics approval was provided by The James Cook University, Human Research Ethics Committee. Ethics Approval Number H5322. Peer-reviewed publications will also be used to disseminate the finding. Results will also be discussed with stakeholder organisations.
Despite large disparities in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, detailed evidence on the health and lifestyle characteristics of older Aboriginal Australians is lacking. The aim of this study is to quantify socio-demographic and health risk factors and mental and physical health status among Aboriginal participants from the 45 and Up Study and to compare these with non-Aboriginal participants from the study.
The 45 and Up Study is a large-scale study of individuals aged 45 years and older from the general population of New South Wales, Australia responding to a baseline questionnaire distributed from 2006–2008. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of self-reported responses from the baseline questionnaire for Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal participants relating to socio-demographic factors, health risk factors, current and past medical and surgical history, physical disability, functional health limitations and levels of current psychological distress were calculated using unconditional logistic regression, with adjustments for age and sex.
Overall, 1939 of 266,661 45 and Up Study participants examined in this study identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (0.7%). Compared to non-Aboriginal participants, Aboriginal participants were significantly more likely to be: younger (mean age 58 versus 63 years); without formal educational qualifications (age- and sex- adjusted OR = 6.2, 95% CI 5.3-7.3); of unemployed (3.7, 2.9-4.6) or disabled (4.6, 3.9-5.3) work status; and with a household income < $20,000/year versus ≥ $70,000/year (5.8, 5.0-6.9). Following additional adjustment for income and education, Aboriginal participants were significantly more likely than non-Aboriginal participants to: be current smokers (2.4, 2.0-2.8), be obese (2.1, 1.8-2.5), have ever been diagnosed with certain medical conditions (especially: diabetes [2.1, 1.8-2.4]; depression [1.6, 1.4-1.8] and stroke [1.8, 1.4-2.3]), have care-giving responsibilities (1.8, 1.5-2.2); have a major physical disability (2.6, 2.2-3.1); have severe physical functional limitation (2.9, 2.4-3.4) and have very high levels of psychological distress (2.4, 2.0-3.0).
Aboriginal participants from the 45 and Up Study experience greater levels of disadvantage and have greater health needs (including physical disability and psychological distress) compared to non-Aboriginal participants. The study highlights the need to address the social determinants of health in Australia and to provide appropriate mental health services and disability support for older Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal Australians; Torres Strait Islanders; 45 and Up study
Child Sexual Assault (CSA) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a complex issue that cannot be understood in isolation from the ongoing impacts of colonial invasion, genocide, assimilation, institutionalised racism and severe socio-economic deprivation. Service responses to CSA are often experienced as racist, culturally, financially and/or geographically inaccessible. A two-day forum, National Yarn Up: Sharing the Wisdoms and Challenges of Young People and Sexual Abuse, was convened by sexual assault services to identify the main practice and policy concerns regarding working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people (C&YP), families and communities in the context of CSA. The forum also aimed to explore how services can become more accountable and better engaged with the communities they are designed to support. The forum was attended by eighty invited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal youth sexual assault managers and workers representing both “victim” and “those who sexually harm others” services. In keeping with Aboriginal Community-Based Research methods forum participants largely directed discussions and contributed to the analysis of key themes and recommendations reported in this article. The need for sexual assault services to prioritise cultural safety by meaningfully integrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Worldviews emerged as a key recommendation. It was also identified that collaboration between “victims” and “those who sexually harm” services are essential given Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander C&YP who sexually harm others may have also been victims of sexual assault or physical violence and intergenerational trauma. By working with the whole family and community, a collaborative approach is more likely than the current service model to develop cultural safety and thus increase the accessibility of sexual assault services.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; children and young people; child sexual assault; those who sexually harm others; trauma; gender; cultural safety; aboriginal worldviews; aboriginal community-based participation research methods
Low plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels are a strong, independent, but poorly understood risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although this atherogenic lipid abnormality has been widely reported in Australia’s Indigenous peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the evidence has not come under systematic review. This review therefore examines published data for Indigenous Australians reporting 1) mean HDL-C levels for both sexes and 2) factors associated with low HDL-C.
PubMed, Medline and Informit ATSI Health databases were systematically searched between 1950 and 2012 for studies on Indigenous Australians reporting mean HDL-C levels in both sexes. Retrieved studies were evaluated by standard criteria. Low HDL-C was defined as: <1.0 mmol/L. Analyses of primary data associating measures of HDL-C with other CVD risk factors were also performed.
Fifteen of 93 retrieved studies were identified for inclusion. These provided 58 mean HDL-C levels; 29 for each sex, most obtained in rural/regional (20%) or remote settings (60%) and including 51–1641 participants. For Australian Aborigines, mean HDL-C values ranged between 0.81-1.50 mmol/L in females and 0.76-1.60 mmol/L in males. Two of 15 studies reported HDL-C levels for Torres Strait Islander populations, mean HDL-C: 1.00 or 1.11 mmol/L for females and 1.01 or 1.13 mmol/L for males. Low HDL-C was observed only in rural/regional and remote settings - not in national or urban studies (n = 3) in either gender. Diabetes prevalence, mean/median waist-to-hip ratio and circulating C-reactive protein levels were negatively associated with HDL-C levels (all P < 0.05). Thirty-four per cent of studies reported lower mean HDL-C levels in females than in males.
Very low mean HDL-C levels are common in Australian Indigenous populations living in rural and remote communities. Inverse associations between HDL-C and central obesity, diabetes prevalence and inflammatory markers suggest a particularly adverse CVD risk factor profile. An absence of sex dichotomy in HDL-C levels warrants further investigation.
Indigenous; Australian Aborigines; Torres Strait Islanders; Lipids; Dyslipidaemia; High-density lipoprotein cholesterol; Cardiovascular disease; Cardiovascular disease risk factors; Cardiometabolic; Non-communicable disease
In Australia, rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is almost exclusively restricted to Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander people with children being at highest risk. International criteria for echocardiographic diagnosis of RHD have been developed but the significance of minor heart valve abnormalities which do not reach these criteria remains unclear. The Rheumatic Fever Follow-Up Study (RhFFUS) aims to clarify this question in children and adolescents at high risk of RHD.
RhFFUS is a cohort study of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents aged 8–17 years residing in 32 remote Australian communities. Cases are people with non-specific heart valve abnormalities detected on prior screening echocardiography. Controls (two per case) are age, gender, community and ethnicity-matched to cases and had a prior normal screening echocardiogram. Participants will have echocardiography about 3 years after initial screening echocardiogram and enhanced surveillance for any history suggestive of acute rheumatic fever (ARF). It will then be determined if cases are at higher risk of (1) ARF or (2) developing progressive echocardiography-detected valve changes consistent with RHD.
The occurrence and timing of episodes of ARF will be assessed retrospectively for 5 years from the time of the RhFFUS echocardiogram. Episodes of ARF will be identified through regional surveillance and notification databases, carer/subject interviews, primary healthcare history reviews, and hospital separation diagnoses.
Progression of valvular abnormalities will be assessed prospectively using transthoracic echocardiography and standardized operating and reporting procedures. Progression of valve lesions will be determined by specialist cardiologist readers who will assess the initial screening and subsequent RhFFUS screening echocardiogram for each participant. The readers will be blinded to the initial assessment and temporal order of the two echocardiograms.
RhFFUS will determine if subtle changes on echocardiography represent the earliest changes of RHD or mere variations of normal heart anatomy. In turn it will inform criteria to be used in determining whether secondary antibiotic prophylaxis should be utilized in individuals with no clear history of ARF and minor abnormalities on echocardiography. RhFFUS will also inform the ongoing debate regarding the potential role of screening echocardiography for the detection of RHD in this setting.
Rheumatic heart disease; Acute rheumatic fever; Screening; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Indigenous; Diagnosis; Prevention; Australia; Echocardiography
Paper-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks have promoted a preventive approach to primary care and provided data to support research at the Inala Indigenous Health Service, south-west Brisbane, Australia. Concerns about the limitations of paper-based health checks prompted us to change to a computerised system to realise potential benefits for clinical services and research capability. We describe the rationale, implementation and anticipated benefits of computerised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks in one primary health care setting.
In May 2010, the Inala Indigenous Health Service commenced a project to computerise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child, adult, diabetic, and antenatal health checks. The computerised health checks were launched in September 2010 and then evaluated for staff satisfaction, research consent rate and uptake. Ethical approval for health check data to be used for research purposes was granted in December 2010.
Three months after the September 2010 launch date, all but two health checks (378 out of 380, 99.5%) had been completed using the computerised system. Staff gave the system a median mark of 8 out of 10 (range 5-9), where 10 represented the highest level of overall satisfaction. By September 2011, 1099 child and adult health checks, 138 annual diabetic checks and 52 of the newly introduced antenatal checks had been completed. These numbers of computerised health checks are greater than for the previous year (2010) of paper-based health checks with a risk difference of 0.07 (95% confidence interval 0.05, 0.10). Additionally, two research projects based on computerised health check data were underway.
The Inala Indigenous Health Service has demonstrated that moving from paper-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks to a system using computerised health checks is feasible and can facilitate research. We expect computerised health checks will improve clinical care and continue to enable research projects using validated data, reflecting the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s priorities.
Computerised medical record systems; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; Primary health care
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
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