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.
The considerably lower average life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, compared with non-Aboriginal and non-Torres Strait Islander Australians, has been widely reported. Prevalence data for chronic disease and health risk factors are needed to provide evidence based estimates for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders population health planning. Representative surveys for these populations are difficult due to complex methodology. The focus of this paper is to describe in detail the methodological challenges and resolutions of a representative South Australian Aboriginal population-based health survey.
Using a stratified multi-stage sampling methodology based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006 Census with culturally appropriate and epidemiological rigorous methods, 11,428 randomly selected dwellings were approached from a total of 209 census collection districts. All persons eligible for the survey identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and were selected from dwellings identified as having one or more Aboriginal person(s) living there at the time of the survey.
Overall, the 399 interviews from an eligible sample of 691 SA Aboriginal adults yielded a response rate of 57.7%. These face-to-face interviews were conducted by ten interviewers retained from a total of 27 trained Aboriginal interviewers. Challenges were found in three main areas: identification and recruitment of participants; interviewer recruitment and retainment; and using appropriate engagement with communities. These challenges were resolved, or at least mainly overcome, by following local protocols with communities and their representatives, and reaching agreement on the process of research for Aboriginal people.
Obtaining a representative sample of Aboriginal participants in a culturally appropriate way was methodologically challenging and required high levels of commitment and resources. Adhering to these principles has resulted in a rich and unique data set that provides an overview of the self-reported health status for Aboriginal people living in South Australia. This process provides some important principles to be followed when engaging with Aboriginal people and their communities for the purpose of health research.
Aboriginal health; Methodology; Recruitment; Population survey; Cultural appropriateness
The Australian Home Medicines Review (HMR) program consists of a pharmacist reviewing a patient’s medicines at his or her home and reporting findings to the patient’s general practitioner (GP) to assist optimisation of medicine management. Previous research has shown that the complex HMR program rules impede access to the HMR program by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.
This study explores the attitudes and perceptions of health professional employees working within Aboriginal Health Services (AHSs) towards the HMR program. The goal was to identify how the HMR program might better address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Thirty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with health professionals at 11 diverse AHSs. Fourteen Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs), five nurses, one manager and 11 GPs were interviewed. Interviews were recorded, de-identified and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded and analysed for themes that recurred throughout the interviews.
This study identified a number of barriers to provision of HMRs specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. These included paternalistic attitudes of health professionals to clients, heightened protection of the GP-client relationship, lack of AHS-pharmacist relationships, need for more culturally responsive pharmacists and the lack of recognition of the AHS’s role in implementation of culturally effective HMRs.
Changes to the HMR model, which make it more effective and culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, were recommended. Improved relationships between GPs and pharmacists, between pharmacists and AHSs, and between pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients were identified as key to increasing HMRs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Aboriginal Health Services are well-placed to be the promoters, organisers, facilitators and implementers of health programs, such as HMR, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.
Embedding a pharmacist within an AHS addresses many of the barriers to HMRs. It ensures pharmacists are culturally mentored and that they build strong relationships with health professionals and clients.
The HMR program rules need to be changed significantly if medication review is to be an effective tool for improving medication safety and adherence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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
Influenza infection during pregnancy causes significant morbidity and mortality. Immunisation against influenza is recommended during pregnancy in several countries however, there are limited data on vaccine uptake, and the determinants of vaccination, in pregnant Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Islander women. This study aimed to collect pilot data on vaccine uptake and attitudes towards, and perceptions of, maternal influenza vaccination in this population in order to inform the development of larger studies.
A mixed-methods study comprised of a cross-sectional survey and yarning circles (focus groups) amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women attending two primary health care services. The women were between 28 weeks gestation and less than 16 weeks post-birth. These data were supplemented by data collected in an ongoing national Australian study of maternal influenza vaccination. Aboriginal research officers collected community data and data from the yarning circles which were based on a narrative enquiry framework. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse quantitative data and thematic analyses were applied to qualitative data.
Quantitative data were available for 53 women and seven of these women participated in the yarning circles. The proportion of women who reported receipt of an influenza vaccine during their pregnancy was 9/53. Less than half of the participants (21/53) reported they had been offered the vaccine in pregnancy. Forty-three percent reported they would get a vaccine if they became pregnant again. Qualitative data suggested perceived benefits to themselves and their infants were important factors in the decision to be vaccinated but there was insufficient information available to women to make that choice.
The rates of influenza immunisation may continue to remain low for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women during pregnancy. Access to services and recommendations by a health care worker may be factors in the lower rates. Our findings support the need for larger studies directed at monitoring and understanding the determinants of maternal influenza vaccine uptake during pregnancy in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This research will best be achieved using methods that account for the social and cultural contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.
Influenza; Vaccine; Pregnancy; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian; Determinants; Uptake
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
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.
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.
Cryptosporidiosis causes gastroenteritis and is transmitted to humans via contaminated water and food, and contact with infected animals and people. We analyse long-term cryptosporidiosis patterns across Australia (2001–2012) and review published Australian studies and jurisdictional health bulletins to identify high risk populations and potential risk factors for disease. Using national data on reported cryptosporidiosis, the average annual rate of reported illness was 12.8 cases per 100 000 population, with cycles of high and low reporting years. Reports of illness peak in summer, similar to other infectious gastrointestinal diseases. States with high livestock densities like New South Wales and Queensland also record a spring peak in illnesses. Children aged less than four years have the highest rates of disease, along with adult females. Rates of reported cryptosporidiosis are highest in the warmer, remote regions and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Our review of 34 published studies and seven health department reports on cryptosporidiosis in Australia highlights a lack of long term, non-outbreak studies in these regions and populations, with an emphasis on outbreaks and risk factors in urban areas. The high disease rates in remote, tropical and subtropical areas and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations underscore the need to develop interventions that target the sources of infection, seasonal exposures and risk factors for cryptosporidiosis in these settings. Spatial epidemiology can provide an evidence base to identify priorities for intervention to prevent and control cryptosporidiosis in high risk populations.
The parasite Cryptosporidium is a common cause of gastroenteritis worldwide. Ineffectively focused interventions are partly why the disease remains a challenge to control. In this study, we describe the geographical, seasonal and demographic characteristics of reported cryptosporidiosis in Australia from 2001–2012. We combine this analysis of illnesses with evidence published in peer review articles and state health bulletins to identify high disease risk areas and populations. We find that rates of reported cryptosporidiosis are highest in warm, remote areas and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations’ dominated regions. Our review of the published literature and health reports highlights a focus on short term outbreaks in metropolitan areas. This negligible overlap between areas with high disease rates and areas of public health focus is of concern. Public health interventions and promotion programs to prevent and control diarrhoea need to focus on remote and Indigenous dominated Australia to reduce the currently high rates in these regions and populations.
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
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience inequity in health outcomes in Australia. Health care interactions are an important starting place to seek to address this inequity. The majority of health professionals in Australia do not identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and the health care interaction therefore becomes an example of working in an intercultural space (or interface). It is therefore critical to consider how health professionals may maximise the positive impact within the health care interaction by skilfully working at the interface.
Thirty-five health professionals working in South Australia were interviewed about their experiences working with Aboriginal people. Recruitment was through purposive sampling. The research was guided by the National Health and Medical Research Council Values and Ethics for undertaking research with Aboriginal communities. Critical social research was used to analyse data.
Interviews revealed two main types of factors influencing the experience of non-Aboriginal health professionals working with Aboriginal people at the interface: the organisation and the individual. Within these two factors, a number of sub-factors were found to be important including organisational culture, organisational support, accessibility of health services and responding to expectations of the wider health system (organisation) and personal ideology and awareness of colonisation (individual).
A health professional’s practice at the interface cannot be considered in isolation from individual and organisational contexts. It is critical to consider how the organisational and individual factors identified in this research will be addressed in health professional training and practice, in order to maximise the ability of health professionals to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and therefore contribute to addressing health equity.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; Indigenous; Interface; Practice; Health professional
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.
Treatment guidelines recommend watchful waiting for children older than 2 years with acute otitis media (AOM) without perforation, unless they are at high risk of complications. The high prevalence of chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities leads these children to be classified as high risk. Urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are at lower risk of complications, but evidence to support the subsequent recommendation for watchful waiting in this population is lacking.
This non-inferiority multi-centre randomised controlled trial will determine whether watchful waiting is non-inferior to immediate antibiotics for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with AOM without perforation. Children aged 2 − 16 years with AOM who are considered at low risk for complications will be recruited from six participating urban primary health care services across Australia. We will obtain informed consent from each participant or their guardian. The primary outcome is clinical resolution on day 7 (no pain, no fever of at least 38 °C, no bulging eardrum and no complications of AOM such as perforation or mastoiditis) as assessed by general practitioners or nurse practitioners. Participants and outcome assessors will not be blinded to treatment. With a sample size of 198 children in each arm, we have 80 % power to detect a non-inferiority margin of up to 10 % at a significance level of 5 %, assuming clinical improvement of at least 80 % in both groups. Allowing for a 20 % dropout rate, we aim to recruit 495 children.
We will analyse both by intention-to-treat and per protocol. We will assess the cost- effectiveness of watchful waiting compared to immediate antibiotic prescription. We will also report on the implementation of the trial from the perspectives of parents/carers, health professionals and researchers.
The trial will provide evidence for the safety and effectiveness of watchful waiting for the management of AOM in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in urban settings who are considered to be at low risk of complications.
The trial is registered with Australia New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12613001068752). Date of registration: 24 September 2013.
Otitis media; Acute otitis media; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; Indigenous population; Children; Antimicrobial agents; Randomised controlled trial
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
Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia have higher risk of burns compared with non-Aboriginal children, their access to burn care, particularly postdischarge care, is poorly understood, including the impact of care on functional outcomes. The objective of this study is to describe the burden of burns, access to care and functional outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia, and develop appropriate models of care.
Methods and analysis
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged under 16 years of age (and their families) presenting with a burn to a tertiary paediatric burn unit in 4 Australian States (New South Wales (NSW), Queensland, Northern Territory (NT), South Australia (SA)) will be invited to participate. Participants and carers will complete a baseline questionnaire; follow-ups will be completed at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months. Data collected will include sociodemographic information; out of pocket costs; functional outcome; and measures of pain, itch and scarring. Health-related quality of life will be measured using the PedsQL, and impact of injury using the family impact scale. Clinical data and treatment will also be recorded. Around 225 participants will be recruited allowing complete data on around 130 children. Qualitative data collected by in-depth interviews with families, healthcare providers and policymakers will explore the impact of burn injury and outcomes on family life, needs of patients and barriers to healthcare; interviews with families will be conducted by experienced Aboriginal research staff using Indigenous methodologies. Health systems mapping will describe the provision of care.
Ethics and dissemination
The study has been approved by ethics committees in NSW, SA, NT and Queensland. Study results will be distributed to community members by study newsletters, meetings and via the website; to policymakers and clinicians via policy fora, presentations and publication in peer-reviewed journals.
ACCIDENT & EMERGENCY MEDICINE; PLASTIC & RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY
The disparities in health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples compared to non-Indigenous Australians are well documented. Chronic diseases are a leading contributor to these disparities. We aimed to determine the feasibility, acceptability and appropriateness of a case management approach to chronic disease care integrated within an urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care service.
The Home-based, Outreach case Management of chronic disease Exploratory (HOME) Study provided holistic, patient centred multidisciplinary care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic disease. A developmental evaluation approach supported the implementation and ongoing adaptations in the delivery of the model of care, and ensured its alignment with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ understandings of, and approaches to, health and wellbeing. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine patient participants (one interview also included a participant’s spouse) and 15 health service staff and key themes were identified through an iterative reflective process. Quantitative data were collected directly from patient participants and from their medical records at baseline, 3 and 6 months. Patient participants’ baseline characteristics were described using frequencies and percentages. Attrition and patterns of missing values over time were evaluated using binomial generalized estimating equation (GEE) models and mean differences in key clinical outcomes were determined using normal GEE models.
Forty-one patients were recruited and nine withdrew over the 6 month period. There was no evidence of differential attrition. All participants (patients and health service staff) were very positive about the model of care. Patient participants became more involved in their health care, depression rates significantly decreased (p = 0.03), and significant improvements in systolic blood pressure (p < 0.001) and diabetes control (p = 0.05) were achieved.
The exploratory nature of our study preclude any definitive statements about the effectiveness of our model of care. However, staff and patients' high levels of satisfaction and improvements in the health and wellbeing of patients are promising and suggest its feasibility, acceptability and appropriateness. Further research is required to determine its efficacy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in improving the quality of life and quality of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living with chronic disease.
Aboriginal and torres Strait Islander peoples’ health; Chronic disease care; Coordinated care; Case management; Primary health 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.
Indigenous Australian adults with diabetes continue to have suboptimal clinical control and poorer outcomes compared with non-Indigenous people although there is a paucity of data documenting the detailed health status of Indigenous people in Australia. To further investigate the characteristics of Indigenous Australian adults with poorly controlled diabetes we analysed baseline data from a cluster randomized trial aiming to deliver a program of integrated community-based intensive chronic disease management for Indigenous people in remote communities in far north Queensland, Australia.
Indigenous adults aged 18 to 65 years from 12 clinics in rural north Queensland with established type 2 diabetes and with HbA1c ≥8.5% were invited to participate. The primary outcome variable measured at baseline was HbA1c. Other variables measured included socio-demographic indicators, health literacy, BMI, blood pressure, lipids, renal function, smoking status and quality of life measures. Data were collected between December 2010 and July 2011. Analysis was performed by ethnicity – Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
One hundred and ninety three participants were included in the analysis. Very high rates of albuminuria, high rates of smoking, dyslipidaemia, hypertension and elevated BMI were recorded. Aboriginal participants reported higher levels of socio-economic disadvantage, higher smoking rates, lower BMI and worse self-reported health status than Torres Strait Islander participants.
These results demonstrate a high potential for improved culturally sound community-based management of diabetes and other comorbid conditions in this very high risk population. They also provide further evidence for including albuminuria in cardiovascular risk calculation.
Diabetes mellitus type 2; Indigenous; Albuminuria; Risk factors; Primary health care