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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
High risk drinking is linked with high rates of physical harm. The reported incidence of alcohol - related trauma among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory is the highest in the world. Facial fractures are common among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. They are often linked with misuse of alcohol in the Northern Territory and are frequently secondary to assault. This review focuses on alcohol-related trauma in the Territory and draws attention to an urgent need for preventative health approach to address this critical issue.
Facial trauma; Indigenous Australians or Aborginal and Torres Strait Islanders; Alcohol related injury; Culturally appropriate intervention
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
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
Diabetes mellitus is a serious and increasing health problem in Australia and is a designated national health priority. Diabetes and related conditions represent an even greater health burden among Indigenous Australians (Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders), but there are critical gaps in knowledge relating to the incidence and prevalence, aetiology, and prevention of diabetes in this group, including a lack of information on the burden of disease among Indigenous people in urban areas. The DRUID Study (Diabetes and Related conditions in Urban Indigenous people in the Darwin region) was designed to address this knowledge gap.
The study was conducted in a specified geographic area in and around Darwin, Australia. Eligible participants underwent a health examination, including collection of blood and urine samples, clinical and anthropometric measurements, and administration of questionnaires, with an additional assessment for people with diabetes. The study was designed to incorporate local Indigenous leadership, facilitate community engagement, and provide employment and training opportunities for local Indigenous people. A variety of recruitment methods were used. A total of 1,004 eligible people gave consent and provided at least one measurement. When compared with census data for the Indigenous population living in the study area, there was a marked under-representation of males, but no substantial differences in age, place of residence, Indigenous group, or household income. Early participants were more likely than later participants to have previously diagnosed diabetes.
Despite lower than anticipated recruitment, this is, to our knowledge, the largest study ever conducted on the health of Indigenous Australians living in urban areas, a group which comprises the majority of Australia's Indigenous population but about whose health and wellbeing relatively little is known. The study is well-placed to provide new information that can be used by policy makers and service providers to improve the delivery of services and programs that affect the health of Indigenous people. It also represents a valuable opportunity to establish an urban Indigenous cohort study, provided participants can be followed successfully over time.
Disseminating national health and alcohol policies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia has been a challenging task for governments and public servants. This has been for a number of reasons, including the enduring (negative) legacy of past “Aboriginal affairs” policies, the fact that Indigenous health programmes and alcohol programmes have been treated separately since the 1970s, and a more recent context in which the recognition of cultural difference was privileged. Confronted with the politics of difference, health departments were slow to examine avenues through which best practice advice emanating from WHO, and alcohol policies such as harm minimisation and early identification and treatment in primary health care, could be communicated in culturally recognisable ways to independent Indigenous services. In addition, there was hostility towards harm minimisation policies from Indigenous service providers, and Indigenous treatment programmes remained largely committed to abstinence‐oriented modalities and the disease model of alcoholism, despite moves away from these approaches in the mainstream. However, genuinely innovative acute interventions and environmental controls over alcohol have been developed by Indigenous community‐based organisations, approaches that are reinforced by international policy research evidence.
Indigenous people; alcohol policy; public health policy
Aboriginal status has been unreliably and incompletely recorded in health and vital registration data collections for the most populous areas of Australia, including NSW where 29% of Australian Aboriginal people reside. This paper reports an assessment of Aboriginal status recording in NSW cancer registrations and estimates incidence, mortality and survival from cancer in NSW Aboriginal people using multiple imputation of missing Aboriginal status in NSW Central Cancer Registry (CCR) records.
Logistic regression modelling and multiple imputation were used to assign Aboriginal status to those records of cancer diagnosed from 1999 to 2008 with missing Aboriginality (affecting 12-18% of NSW cancers registered in this period). Estimates of incidence, mortality and survival from cancer in NSW Aboriginal people were compared with the NSW total population, as standardised incidence and mortality ratios, and with the non-Aboriginal population.
Following imputation, 146 (12.2%) extra cancers in Aboriginal males and 140 (12.5%) in Aboriginal females were found for 1999-2007. Mean annual cancer incidence in NSW Aboriginal people was estimated to be 660 per 100,000 and 462 per 100,000, 9% and 6% higher than all NSW males and females respectively. Mean annual cancer mortality in NSW Aboriginal people was estimated to be 373 per 100,000 in males and 240 per 100,000 in females, 68% and 73% higher than for all NSW males and females respectively. Despite similar incidence of localised cancer, mortality from localised cancer in Aboriginal people is significantly higher than in non-Aboriginal people, as is mortality from cancers with regional, distant and unknown degree of spread at diagnosis. Cancer survival in Aboriginal people is significantly lower: 51% of males and 43% of females had died of the cancer by 5 years following diagnosis, compared to 36% and 33% of non-Aboriginal males and females respectively.
The present study is the first to produce valid and reliable estimates of cancer incidence, survival and mortality in Australian Aboriginal people from NSW. Despite somewhat higher cancer incidence in Aboriginal than in non-Aboriginal people, substantially higher mortality and lower survival in Aboriginal people is only partly explained by more advanced cancer at diagnosis.
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
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.
Acute respiratory illness (ARI) is the most common cause of acute presentations and hospitalisations of young Indigenous children in Australia and New Zealand (NZ). Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) from household smoking is a significant and preventable contributor to childhood ARI. This paper describes the protocol for a study which aims to test the efficacy of a family-centred tobacco control program about ETS to improve the respiratory health of Indigenous infants in Australia and New Zealand. For the purpose of this paper 'Indigenous' refers to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when referring to Australian Indigenous populations. In New Zealand, the term 'Indigenous' refers to Māori.
This study will be a parallel, randomized, controlled trial. Participants will be Indigenous women and their infants, half of whom will be randomly allocated to an 'intervention' group, who will receive the tobacco control program over three home visits in the first three months of the infant's life and half to a control group receiving 'usual care' (i.e. they will not receive the tobacco control program). Indigenous health workers will deliver the intervention, the goal of which is to reduce or eliminate infant exposure to ETS. Data collection will occur at baseline (shortly after birth) and when the infant is four months and one year of age. The primary outcome is a doctor-diagnosed, documented case of respiratory illness in participating infants.
Interventions aimed at reducing exposure of Indigenous children to ETS have the potential for significant benefits for Indigenous communities. There is currently a dearth of evidence for the effect of tobacco control interventions to reduce children's exposure to ETS among Indigenous populations. This study will provide high-quality evidence of the efficacy of a family-centred tobacco control program on ETS to reduce respiratory illness. Outcomes of our study will be important and significant for Indigenous tobacco control in Australia and New Zealand and prevention of respiratory illness in children.
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12609000937213)
To develop an instrument that predicts diabetes-related vascular disease severity using routinely collected data on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults with type 2 diabetes, in the absence of diabetes duration.
A complex diabetes severity classification system was simplified and adapted for use with an Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population with type 2 diabetes in north Queensland. Detailed vascular health risks and morbidities were mapped to routinely collected measures. Individual–level health screening, hospital separation and mortality data were linked and used to plot mean monthly in-patient hospital cost and percent mortality by disease severity as defined by the newly developed instrument, to test construct validity.
The revised instrument consists of four combined diabetes-related microvascular and macrovascular stages that range from least severe (stage 1) to severe irreversible vascular impairment (stage 4). When applied to data of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian population the instrument showed good construct validity, predicting higher hospital cost and mortality as vascular disease severity increased.
This instrument discriminates between levels of diabetes-related vascular disease severity, displays good construct validity by predicting increased hospital cost and mortality with worsening severity and can be populated with routinely collected data. It may assist with future health service research and its use could be extended to practice settings for health care planning for diabetes management programs and monitoring vascular disease progression.
Diabetes vascular staging instrument; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
Australian federal and jurisdictional governments are implementing ambitious policy initiatives intended to improve health care access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In this qualitative study we explored Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) staff views on factors needed to improve chronic care systems and assessed their relevance to the new policy environment.
Two theories informed the study: (1) ‘candidacy’, which explores “the ways in which people’s eligibility for care is jointly negotiated between individuals and health services”; and (2) kanyini or ‘holding’, a Central Australian philosophy which describes the principle and obligations of nurturing and protecting others. A structured health systems assessment, locally adapted from Chronic Care Model domains, was administered via group interviews with 37 health staff in six AMSs and one government Indigenous-led health service. Data were thematically analysed.
Staff emphasised AMS health care was different to private general practices. Consistent with kanyini, community governance and leadership, community representation among staff, and commitment to community development were important organisational features to retain and nurture both staff and patients. This was undermined, however, by constant fear of government funding for AMSs being withheld. Staff resourcing, information systems and high-level leadership were perceived to be key drivers of health care quality. On-site specialist services, managed by AMS staff, were considered an enabling strategy to increase specialist access. Candidacy theory suggests the above factors influence whether a service is ‘tractable’ and ‘navigable’ to its users. Staff also described entrenched patient discrimination in hospitals and the need to expend considerable effort to reinstate care. This suggests that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still constructed as ‘non-ideal users’ and are denied from being ‘held’ by hospital staff.
Some new policy initiatives (workforce capacity strengthening, improving chronic care delivery systems and increasing specialist access) have potential to address barriers highlighted in this study. Few of these initiatives, however, capitalise on the unique mechanisms by which AMSs ‘hold’ their users and enhance their candidacy to health care. Kanyini and candidacy are promising and complementary theories for conceptualising health care access and provide a potential framework for improving systems of care.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training was developed in Australia to teach members of the public how to give initial help to someone developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis situation. However, this type of training requires adaptation for specific cultural groups in the community. This paper describes the adaptation of the program to create an Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid (AMHFA) course and presents an initial evaluation of its uptake and acceptability.
To evaluate the program, two types of data were collected: (1) quantitative data on uptake of the course (number of Instructors trained and courses subsequently run by these Instructors); (2) qualitative data on strengths, weaknesses and recommendations for the future derived from interviews with program staff and focus groups with Instructors and community participants.
199 Aboriginal people were trained as Instructors in a five day Instructor Training Course. With sufficient time following training, the majority of these Instructors subsequently ran 14-hour AMHFA courses for Aboriginal people in their community. Instructors were more likely to run courses if they had prior teaching experience and if there was post-course contact with one of the Trainers of Instructors. Analysis of qualitative data indicated that the Instructor Training Course and the AMHFA course are culturally appropriate, empowering for Aboriginal people, and provided information that was seen as highly relevant and important in assisting Aboriginal people with a mental illness. There were a number of recommendations for improvements.
The AMHFA program is culturally appropriate and acceptable to Aboriginal people. Further work is needed to refine the course and to evaluate its impact on help provided to Aboriginal people with mental health problems.
Understanding people's social lived experiences of chronic illness is fundamental to improving health service delivery and health outcomes, particularly in relation to self-management activity. In explorations of social lived experiences this paper uncovers the ways in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic illness experience informal unsolicited support from peers and family members.
Nineteen Aboriginal and Torres Islander participants were interviewed in the Serious and Continuing Illness Policy and Practice Study (SCIPPS). Participants were people with Type 2 diabetes (N = 17), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (N = 3) and/or chronic heart failure (N = 11) and family carers (N = 3). Participants were asked to describe their experience of having or caring for someone with chronic illness. Content and thematic analysis of in-depth semi-structured interviews was undertaken, assisted by QSR Nvivo8 software.
Participants reported receiving several forms of unsolicited support, including encouragement, practical suggestions for managing, nagging, growling, and surveillance. Additionally, participants had engaged in 'yarning', creating a 'yarn' space, the function of which was distinguished as another important form of unsolicited support. The implications of recognising these various support forms are discussed in relation to responses to unsolicited support as well as the needs of family carers in providing effective informal support.
Certain locations of responsibility are anxiety producing. Family carers must be supported in appropriate education so that they can provide both solicited and unsolicited support in effective ways. Such educational support would have the added benefit of helping to reduce carer anxieties about caring roles and responsibilities. Mainstream health services would benefit from fostering environments that encourage informal interactions that facilitate learning and support in a relaxed atmosphere.
Aboriginal; Indigenous; chronic heart failure; chronic illness; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; diabetes; qualitative methods; self-management
Ethnic minority groups are under-represented in mental health care services because of barriers such as poor mental health literacy. In 2007, the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program implemented a cultural adaptation of its first aid course to improve the capacity of Indigenous Australians to recognise and respond to mental health issues within their own communities. It became apparent that the content of this training would be improved by the development of best practice guidelines. This research aimed to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for providing first aid to an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is experiencing a mental health crisis or developing a mental illness.
A panel of Australian Aboriginal people who are experts in Aboriginal mental health, participated in six independent Delphi studies investigating depression, psychosis, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, deliberate self-injury, trauma and loss, and cultural considerations. The panel varied in size across the studies, from 20-24 participants. Panellists were presented with statements about possible first aid actions via online questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional actions not covered by the survey content. Statements were accepted for inclusion in a guideline if they were endorsed by ≥ 90% of panellists as essential or important. Each study developed one guideline from the outcomes of three Delphi questionnaire rounds. At the end of the six Delphi studies, participants were asked to give feedback on the value of the project and their participation experience.
From a total of 1,016 statements shown to the panel of experts, 536 statements were endorsed (94 for depression, 151 for psychosis, 52 for suicidal thoughts and behaviours, 53 for deliberate self-injury, 155 for trauma and loss, and 31 for cultural considerations). The methodology and the guidelines themselves were found to be useful and appropriate by the panellists.
Aboriginal mental health experts were able to reach consensus about culturally appropriate first aid for mental illness. The Delphi consensus method could be useful more generally for consulting Indigenous peoples about culturally appropriate best practice in mental health services.
The Indigenous population of Australia was estimated as 2.5% and under-reported. The aim of this study is to improve statistical ascertainment of Aboriginal women giving birth in New South Wales.
This study was based on linked birth data from the Midwives Data Collection (MDC) and the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (RBDM) of New South Wales (NSW). Data linkage was performed by the Centre for Health Record Linkage (CHeReL) for births in NSW for the period January 2001 to December 2005. The accuracy of maternal Aboriginal status in the MDC and RBDM was assessed by consistency, sensitivity and specificity. A new statistical variable, ASV, or Aboriginal Statistical Variable, was constructed based on Indigenous identification in both datasets. The ASV was assessed by comparing numbers and percentages of births to Aboriginal mothers with the estimates by capture-recapture analysis.
Maternal Aboriginal status was under-ascertained in both the MDC and RBDM. The ASV significantly increased ascertainment of Aboriginal women giving birth and decreased the number of missing cases. The proportion of births to Aboriginal mothers in the non-registered birth group was significantly higher than in the registered group.
Linking birth data collections is a feasible method to improve the statistical ascertainment of Aboriginal women giving birth in NSW. This has ramifications for the ascertainment of babies of Aboriginal mothers and the targeting of appropriate services in pregnancy and early childhood.
Birth; Aboriginality; data; Australia
Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) populations have disproportionately high rates of adverse perinatal outcomes relative to other Australians. Poorer access to good quality maternal health care is a key driver of this disparity. The aim of this study was to describe patterns of delivery of maternity care and service gaps in primary care services in Australian Indigenous communities.
We undertook a cross-sectional baseline audit for a quality improvement intervention. Medical records of 535 women from 34 Indigenous community health centres in five regions (Top End of Northern Territory 13, Central Australia 2, Far West New South Wales 6, Western Australia 9, and North Queensland 4) were audited. The main outcome measures included: adherence to recommended protocols and procedures in the antenatal and postnatal periods including: clinical, laboratory and ultrasound investigations; screening for gestational diabetes and Group B Streptococcus; brief intervention/advice on health-related behaviours and risks; and follow up of identified health problems.
The proportion of women presenting for their first antenatal visit in the first trimester ranged from 34% to 49% between regions; consequently, documentation of care early in pregnancy was poor. Overall, documentation of routine antenatal investigations and brief interventions/advice regarding health behaviours varied, and generally indicated that these services were underutilised. For example, 46% of known smokers received smoking cessation advice/counselling; 52% of all women received antenatal education and 51% had investigation for gestational diabetes. Overall, there was relatively good documentation of follow up of identified problems related to hypertension or diabetes, with over 70% of identified women being referred to a GP/Obstetrician.
Participating services had both strengths and weaknesses in the delivery of maternal health care. Increasing access to evidence-based screening and health information (most notably around smoking cessation) were consistently identified as opportunities for improvement across services.
Background. There is a paucity of research in Australia on the characteristics of women in treatment for illicit substance use in pregnancy and the health outcomes of their neonates. Aims. To determine the clinical features and outcomes of high-risk, marginalized women seeking treatment for illicit substance use in pregnancy and their neonates.
Methods. 139 women with a history of substance abuse/dependence engaged with a perinatal drug health service in Sydney, Australia. Maternal (demographic, drug use, psychological, physical, obstetric, and antenatal care) and neonatal characteristics (delivery, early health outcomes) were examined. Results. Compared to national figures, pregnant women attending a specialist perinatal and family drug health service were more likely to report being Australian born, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, younger, unemployed, and multiparous. Opiates were the primary drug of concern (81.3%). Pregnancy complications were common (61.9%). Neonates were more likely to be preterm, have low birth weight, and be admitted to special care nursery. NAS was the most prevalent birth complication (69.8%) and almost half required pharmacotherapy. Conclusion. Mother-infant dyads affected by substance use in pregnancy are at significant risk. There is a need to review clinical models of care and examine the longer-term impacts on infant development.
The burden of mental health problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is a major public health problem in Australia. While socioeconomic factors are implicated as important determinants of mental health problems in mainstream populations, their bearing on the mental health of Indigenous Australians remains largely uncharted across all age groups.
We examined the relationship between the risk of clinically significant emotional or behavioural difficulties (CSEBD) and a range of socioeconomic measures for 3993 Indigenous children aged 4–17 years in Western Australia, using a representative survey conducted in 2000–02. Analysis was conducted using multivariate logistic regression within a multilevel framework.
Almost one quarter (24%) of Indigenous children were classified as being at high risk of CSEBD. Our findings generally indicate that higher socioeconomic status is associated with a reduced risk of mental health problems in Indigenous children. Housing quality and tenure and neighbourhood-level disadvantage all have a strong direct effect on child mental health. Further, the circumstances of families with Indigenous children (parenting quality, stress, family composition, overcrowding, household mobility, racism and family functioning) emerged as an important explanatory mechanism underpinning the relationship between child mental health and measures of material wellbeing such as carer employment status and family financial circumstances.
Our results provide incremental evidence of a social gradient in the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Improving the social, economic and psychological conditions of families with Indigenous children has considerable potential to reduce the mental health inequalities within Indigenous populations and, in turn, to close the substantial racial gap in mental health. Interventions that target housing quality, home ownership and neighbourhood-level disadvantage are likely to be particularly beneficial.
Socioeconomic; Social disparities; Social gradient; Aboriginal; Mental health; Indigenous; Inequality; Australia
Compared to other Australian women, Indigenous women are frequently at greater risk for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. We examined pre-pregnancy factors that may predict hypertension in pregnancy in a cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in north Queensland.
Data on a cohort of 1009 Indigenous women of childbearing age (15–44 years) who participated in a 1998–2000 health screening program in north Queensland were combined with 1998–2008 Queensland hospitalisations data using probabilistic data linkage. Data on the women in the cohort who were hospitalised for birth (n = 220) were further combined with Queensland perinatal data which identified those diagnosed with hypertension in pregnancy.
Of 220 women who gave birth, 22 had hypertension in the pregnancy after their health check. The mean age of women with and without hypertension was similar (23.7 years and 23.9 years respectively) however Aboriginal women were more affected compared to Torres Strait Islanders. Pre-pregnancy adiposity and elevated blood pressure at the health screening program were predictors of a pregnancy affected by hypertension. After adjusting for age and ethnicity, each 1 cm increase in waist circumference showed a 4% increased risk for hypertension in pregnancy (PR 1.04; 95% CI; 1.02-1.06); each 1 point increase in BMI showed a 9% adjusted increase in risk (1.09; 1.04-1.14). For each 1 mmHg increase in baseline systolic blood pressure there was an age and ethnicity adjusted 6% increase in risk and each 1 mmHg increase in diastolic blood pressure showed a 7% increase in risk (1.06; 1.03-1.09 and 1.07; 1.03-1.11 respectively). Among those free of diabetes at baseline, the presence of the metabolic syndrome (International Diabetes Federation criteria) predicted over a three-fold increase in age-ethnicity-adjusted risk (3.5; 1.50-8.17).
Pre-pregnancy adiposity and features of the metabolic syndrome among these young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women track strongly to increased risk of hypertension in pregnancy with associated risks to the health of babies.
Indigenous; Pre-pregnancy; Hypertension; Preeclampsia
There is great variation in experience of menopause in women around the world. The purpose of this study was to review current understanding of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) women’s experiences of menopause. The literature pertaining to the perception, significance and experience of menopause from a number of cultural groups around the world has been included to provide context for why Indigenous women’s experience might be important for their health and differ from that reported in other studies of Australian women and menopause.
A search of databases including Ovid Medline, Pubmed, Web of Science, AUSThealth, AMED, EMBASE, Global Health and PsychINFO was undertaken from January 2011 to April 2011 using the search terms menopause, Indigenous, Aboriginal, attitudes, and perceptions and repeated in September 2012.
Considerable research shows significant variation across cultures in the menopausal experience. Biological, psychological, social and cultural factors are associated with either positive or negative attitudes, perceptions or experiences of menopause in various cultures. Comparative international literature shows that neither biological nor social factors alone are sufficient to explain the variation in experiences of the menopausal transition. However, a strong influence of culture on the menopause experience can be found. The variation in women’s experience of menopause indicates that different cultural groups of women may have different understandings and needs during the menopausal transition. While considerable literature exists for Australian women as a whole, there has been little investigation of Australian Indigenous women, with only two research studies related to Indigenous women’s experiences of menopause identified.
Differences in biocultural experience of menopause around the world suggest the importance of biocultural research. For the Indigenous women of Australia, the relative contribution of culture, social disadvantage and poor general health compared with non-Indigenous women to the experience of menopause is unknown. As such, further research and understanding of the experience of Indigenous women around Australia is needed. This information could assist individuals, families, cultural groups and healthcare providers to enhance management and support for Indigenous Australian women.
Menopause; Indigenous; Aboriginal Attitudes; Perceptions; Experiences; Culture