Aboriginal Australians have a substantially higher frequency of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) events than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, together with a higher prevalence of comorbidities. The pattern of health service provision for IHD suggests inequitable delivery of important diagnostic procedures. Published data on disparities in IHD management among Aboriginal Australians are conflicting, and the role of comorbidities has not been adequately delineated. We compared the profiles of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients in the metropolitan area undergoing emergency IHD admissions at Western Australian metropolitan hospitals, and investigated the determinants of receiving coronary angiography.
Person-linked administrative hospital and mortality records were used to identify 28-day survivors of IHD emergency admission events (n =20,816) commencing at metropolitan hospitals in 2005–09. The outcome measure was receipt of angiography. The Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal risk ratio (RR) was estimated from a multivariable Poisson log-linear regression model with allowance for multiple IHD events in individuals. The subgroup of myocardial infarction (MI) events was modelled separately.
Compared with their non-Aboriginal counterparts, Aboriginal IHD patients were younger and more likely to have comorbidities. In the age- and sex-adjusted model, Aboriginal patients were less likely than others to receive angiography (RRIHD 0.77, 95% CI 0.72-0.83; RRMI 0.81, 95% CI 0.75-0.87) but in the full multivariable model this disparity was accounted for by comorbidities as well as IHD category and MI subtype, and private health insurance (RRIHD 0.95, 95% CI 0.89-1.01; RRMI 0.94, 95% CI 0.88-1.01). When stratified by age groups, this disparity was not significant in the 25–54 year age group (RRMI 0.95, 95% CI 0.88-1.02) but was significant in the 55–84 year age group (RRMI 0.88, 95% CI 0.77-0.99).
The disproportionate under-management of older Aboriginal IHD patients is of particular concern. Regardless of age, the disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians in receiving angiography for acute IHD in a metropolitan setting is mediated substantially by comorbidities. This constellation of health problems is a ‘double-whammy’ for Aboriginal people, predisposing them to IHD and also adversely impacting on their receipt of angiography. Further research should investigate how older age and comorbidities influence clinical decision making in this context.
Aboriginal; Oceanic ancestry group; Australia; Ischaemic heart disease; Myocardial infarction; Healthcare Disparities; Hospitals; urban; Coronary angiography; Age factors; Comorbidity
Cultural immersion programs are increasingly offered to medical and health science students in an effort to provide experiential learning opportunities that focus on ‘the self’ as well as ‘the other’. Immersion programs encourage self-reflection on attitudes towards cultural differences, provide opportunities to build relationships and work with community members, and allow students to apply knowledge and skills learned in training programs in a supervised practice setting. The aim of this paper is to describe midwifery students’ reflections on a remote Aboriginal clinical placement that has been offered at a Western Australian university since 2010.
Interviews were conducted over a period of 15 months with the first seven participants who completed the program. At the time of interview, four participants were in the final year of their undergraduate degree and three were practicing midwives. In addition, access was given to a detailed journal kept by one participant during the placement. Interviews also were conducted with midwifery staff at the university and practice setting, although the focus of this paper is upon the student experience.
Student selection, preparation and learning experiences as well as implications of the placement for midwifery practice are described. The remote clinical placement was highly valued by all students and recommended to others as a profound learning experience. Highlights centred on connections made with community members and cultural knowledge learned experientially, while challenges included geographic and professional isolation and the complexities of health care delivery in remote settings, especially to pregnant and birthing Aboriginal women. All students recognised the transferability of the knowledge and skills acquired to urban settings, and some had already incorporated these learnings into clinical practice.
Cultural immersion programs have the potential to provide students with rich learning experiences that cannot be acquired in classroom settings. In Aboriginal communities on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands students gained valuable insights into the impact of isolation on health service delivery, the extent and strength of cultural traditions in the region, and a heightened awareness of the difficulties encountered by pregnant and birthing Aboriginal women in remote locations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-685) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Midwifery education; Aboriginal health; Cultural immersion; Cultural competency
The substantial gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has been slow to improve, despite increased dedicated funding. Partnerships between Australian Indigenous and mainstream Western biomedical organisations are recognised as crucial to improved Indigenous health outcomes. However, these partnerships often experience challenges, particularly in the context of Australia’s race and political relations.
We examined the relevant literature in order to identify the potential role for social theory and theoretical models in developing and maintaining intercultural partnerships. Having identified relevant theoretical models, terms and possible key words, a range of databases were searched and relevant articles selected for inclusion. An integrative approach brought together theoretical models and practical considerations about working in partnership, to inform our analysis of the literature.
Considering partnerships between Australian Indigenous and mainstream health organisations as ‘bi-cultural’ is simplistic: rather they are culturally diverse across social and professional levels. As such, partnerships between Australian Indigenous and mainstream health organisations may be better conceptualised as ‘intercultural’, operating across diverse and shifting cultural frames of reference. Theories identified by this review as useful to guide partnerships include power relations, reflexivity and dialogue, borders and strangeness and the intercultural or third space. This paper examines how these theoretical approaches can develop understanding and improve intercultural engagement between mainstream and Australian Indigenous partners in healthcare.
Rather than viewing partnerships merely as arrangements between disembodied entities, sometimes contractual in nature, they are better seen as activities between people and organisations and essentially dependent on relationships, occurring in an intercultural space that is complex, dynamic and subject to changes in power relations. Theoretical models aiming to understand and improve partnerships indicate the complexity of building and maintaining such partnerships and stress the importance of understanding factors that can strengthen or derail their effectiveness. While the theories presented here are by no means exhaustive, they nonetheless provide a series of entry points through which to engage with the issue and expand the discourse. This approach allows the transformative nature of Australian Indigenous-mainstream ‘culture’ to be explored and understood in its lived expression; rather than relegated to prescriptive categories.
Partnerships; Indigenous health; Social theory; Collaboration; Intercultural
We examined differentials in short-term (30-day mortality) and 1-year mortality (in 30-day survivors) following index (first-ever) hospitalisation for heart failure (HF), between rural and metropolitan patients resident in Western Australia.
A population-based cohort study.
Hospitalised patients in Western Australia, Australia.
Index patients aged 20–84 years with a first-ever hospitalisation for HF between 2000 and 2009 (with no prior admissions for HF in previous 10 years), identified using the Western Australia linked health data.
Main outcome measures
30-day and 1-year all-cause mortality (in 30-day survivors) following index admission for HF.
Of 17 379 index patients with HF identified, 25.9% (4499) were from rural areas. Rural patients were significantly younger at first HF hospitalisation than metropolitan patients. Aboriginal patients comprised 1.9% of metropolitan and 17.2% of rural patients. Despite some statistical differences, the prevalence of antecedents including ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease was high (>20%) in both subpopulations. After adjusting for age only, patients from rural areas had a higher risk of 30-day death (OR 1.16 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.33)) and 1-year death in 30-day survivors (HR 1.11 (95% CI 1.01 to 1.23)). These relative risk estimates increased and remained significant after further progressive adjustments for Aboriginality, socioeconomic status, insurance status, emergency presentation, individual comorbidities and revascularisation with OR 1.25 (1.06 to 1.48) for 30-day mortality and HR 1.13 (1.02 to 1.27) for 1-year mortality. The addition of the weighted Charlson index to the 30-day model improved the ‘c’ statistic (under the receiver operating characteristic curve) from 0.656 (using a variation of administrative claims model) to 0.714.
Remoteness and variable access to healthcare can cause important disparities in health outcomes. Rural patients with HF in Western Australia have poorer risk-adjusted outcomes compared with metropolitan patients. This finding has important implications for chronic disease management and provision of health services in rural Australia.
Aboriginal people have a disproportionately higher incidence rate of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) than non-Aboriginal people. The findings on Aboriginal disparity in receiving coronary artery procedures are inconclusive. We describe the profile and transfers of IHD patients admitted to rural hospitals as emergency admissions and investigate determinants of transfers and coronary angiography.
Person-linked hospital and mortality records were used to identify 28-day survivors of IHD events commencing at rural hospitals in Western Australia. Outcome measures were receipt of coronary angiography, transfer to a metropolitan hospital, and coronary angiography if transferred to a metropolitan hospital.
Compared to non-Aboriginal patients, Aboriginal patients with IHD were more likely to be younger, have more co-morbidities, reside remotely, but less likely to have private insurance. After adjusting for demographic characteristics, Aboriginal people with MI were less likely to be transferred to a metropolitan hospital, and if transferred were less likely to receive coronary angiography. These disparities were not significant after adjusting for comorbidities and private insurance. In the full multivariate model age, comorbidities and private insurance were adversely associated with transfer to a metropolitan hospital and coronary angiography.
Disparity in receiving coronary angiography following emergency admission for IHD to rural hospitals is mediated through the lower likelihood of being transferred to metropolitan hospitals where this procedure is performed. The likelihood of a transfer is increased if the patient has private insurance, however, rural Aboriginal people have a lower rate of private insurance than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Health practitioners and policy makers can continue to claim that they treat Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike based upon clinical indications, as private insurance is acting as a filter to reduce rural residents accessing interventional cardiology. If health practitioners and policy makers are truly committed to reducing health disparities, they must reflect upon the broader systems in which disparity is perpetuated and work towards a systems improvement.
Oceanic ancestry group; Ischaemic heart disease; Myocardial infarction; Healthcare Disparities; Rural Hospitals; Health Insurance; Coronary angiography
Although the challenges of working with culturally and linguistically diverse groups can lead to the exclusion of some communities from research studies, cost effective strategies to encourage access and promote cross-cultural linkages between researchers and ethnic minority participants are essential to ensure their views are heard and their health needs identified. Using bilingual research assistants is one means to achieve this. In a study exploring alcohol and other drug service use by migrant women in Western Australia, bilingual workers were used to assist with participant recruitment and administration of a survey to 268 women who spoke more than 40 different languages.
Professional interpreters, bilingual students, bilingual overseas-trained health professionals and community sector bilingual workers were used throughout the research project. For the initial qualitative phase, professional interpreters were used to conduct interviews and focus group sessions, however scheduling conflicts, inflexibility, their inability to help with recruitment and the expense prompted exploration of alternative options for interview interpreting in the quantitative component of the study. Bilingual mature-age students on work placement and overseas-trained health professionals provided good entry into their different community networks and successfully recruited and interviewed participants, often in languages with limited interpreter access. Although both groups required training and supervision, overseas-trained health professionals often had existing research skills, as well as understanding of key issues such as confidentiality and referral processes. Strategies to minimise social desirability bias and the need to set boundaries were discussed during regular debriefing sessions. Having a number of workers recruiting participants also helped minimise the potential for selection bias. The practical and educational experience gained by the bilingual workers was regarded as capacity building and a potentially valuable community resource for future health research projects.
The use of bilingual workers was key to the feasibility and success of the project. The most successful outcomes occurred with students and overseas-trained health professionals who had good community networks for recruitment and the required linguistic skills. By describing the advantages and disadvantages encountered when working with bilingual workers, we offer practical insights to assist other researchers working with linguistically diverse groups.
Bilingual workers; Cross cultural research; Migrants; Refugees; Communication; Interpreting
Indigenous Australians have poorer outcomes from cancer for a variety of reasons including poorer participation in screening programs, later diagnosis, higher rates of cancer with poor prognosis and poorer uptake and completion of treatment. Cancer prevention and support for people with cancer is part of the core business of the State and Territory Cancer Councils. To support sharing of lessons learned, this paper reports an environmental scan undertaken in 2010 in cancer councils (CCs) nationwide that aimed to support Indigenous cancer control.
The methods replicated the approach used in a 2006 environmental scan of Indigenous related activity in CCs. The Chief Executive Officer of each CC nominated individuals for interview. Interviews explored staffing, projects, programs and activities to progress cancer control issues for Indigenous Australians, through phone or face-to-face interviews. Reported initiatives were tabulated using predetermined categories of activity and summaries were returned to interviewees, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Subcommittee and Chief Executive Officers for verification.
All CCs participated and modest increases in activity had occurred in most states since 2006 through different means. Indigenous staff numbers were low and no Indigenous person had yet been employed in smaller CCs; no CC had an Indigenous Board member and efforts at capacity building were often directed outside of the organisation. Developing partnerships with Indigenous organisations were ongoing. Acknowledgement and specific mention of Indigenous people in policy was increasing. Momentum increased following the establishment of a national subcommittee which increased the profile of Indigenous issues and provided collegial and practical support for those committed to reducing Indigenous cancer disparities. Government funding of “Closing the Gap” and research in the larger CCs have been other avenues for increasing knowledge and activity in Indigenous cancer control.
This environmental scan measured progress, allowed sharing of information and provided critical assessment of progress across areas of importance for increasing Indigenous cancer control. Structured examination of policies, institutional support systems, programs and interventions is a useful means of highlighting opportunities for progress with minority groups relevant for many organisations. Progress has occurred with momentum likely to increase in the future and benefit from commitment to long-term monitoring and sharing of achievements.
Cancer; Aboriginal; Indigenous; Environmental scan; Delivery of health care/*organization & administration; Health services accessibility; Neoplasms/*prevention & control
Despite extensive literature demonstrating differing experiences in menopause around the world, documentation of the experience of menopause in Australian Aboriginal women is scarce, and thus their menopausal experience is relatively unknown. This study aimed to understand Australian Aboriginal women’s understanding and experience of menopause and its impact on their lives.
The study was an exploratory qualitative study. Twenty-five Aboriginal women were recruited from a regional centre in the Mid-West region of Western Australia using opportunistic and snowballing sampling. Interviews and focus group discussions were undertaken from February 2011 to February 2012 using open-ended questioning with a yarning technique. Thematic analysis was undertaken of the transcribed interviews.
A number of themes were revealed. These related to the language used, meanings and attitudes to menopause, symptoms experienced, the role of men, a lack of understanding, coping mechanisms and the attribution of menopausal changes to something else. The term “change of life” was more widely recognised and signified the process of ageing, and an associated gain of respect in the local community. A fear of menopausal symptoms or uncertainty about their origin was also common. Overall, many women reported insufficient understanding and a lack of available information to assist them and their family to understand the transition.
There are similarities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal experiences of menopause, including similar symptom profiles. The current language used within mainstream health settings may not be appropriate to this population if it fails to recognise the importance of language and reflect the attributed meaning of menopause. The fear of symptoms and uncertainty of their relationship to menopause demonstrated a need for more information which has not adequately been supplied to Australian Aboriginal women through current services. While this study is with a select population of Aboriginal Australian women, it reveals the importance of acknowledging differences, particularly in use of language to convey ideas and support Aboriginal women experiencing menopause.
Menopause; Change of life; Indigenous; Aboriginal; Australia; Attitudes; Perceptions; Experiences; Culture
Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes from cancer compared to the non-Aboriginal population. Some progress has been made in understanding Aboriginal Australians’ perspectives about cancer and their experiences with cancer services. However, little is known of cancer service providers’ (CSPs) thoughts and perceptions regarding Aboriginal patients and their experiences providing optimal cancer care to Aboriginal people. Communication between Aboriginal patients and non-Aboriginal health service providers has been identified as an impediment to good Aboriginal health outcomes. This paper reports on CSPs’ views about the factors impairing communication and offers practical strategies for promoting effective communication with Aboriginal patients in Western Australia (WA).
A qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with 62 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal CSPs from across WA was conducted between March 2006 - September 2007 and April-October 2011. CSPs were asked to share their experiences with Aboriginal patients and families experiencing cancer. Thematic analysis was carried out. Our analysis was primarily underpinned by the socio-ecological model, but concepts of Whiteness and privilege, and cultural security also guided our analysis.
CSPs’ lack of knowledge about the needs of Aboriginal people with cancer and Aboriginal patients’ limited understanding of the Western medical system were identified as the two major impediments to communication. For effective patient–provider communication, attention is needed to language, communication style, knowledge and use of medical terminology and cross-cultural differences in the concept of time. Aboriginal marginalization within mainstream society and Aboriginal people’s distrust of the health system were also key issues impacting on communication. Potential solutions to effective Aboriginal patient-provider communication included recruiting more Aboriginal staff, providing appropriate cultural training for CSPs, cancer education for Aboriginal stakeholders, continuity of care, avoiding use of medical jargon, accommodating patients’ psychosocial and logistical needs, and in-service coordination.
Individual CSPs identified challenges in cross-cultural communication and their willingness to accommodate culture-specific needs within the wider health care system including better communication with Aboriginal patients. However, participants’ comments indicated a lack of concerted effort at the system level to address Aboriginal disadvantage in cancer outcomes.
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cancer; Communication; Health service provider; Cancer service provider
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
Aboriginal Australians have a lower rate of utilisation of palliative care services than the general population. This study aimed to explore care providers’ experiences and concerns in providing palliative care for Aboriginal people, and to identify opportunities for overcoming gaps in understanding between them and their Aboriginal patients and families.
In-depth, qualitative interviews with urban, rural and remote palliative care providers were undertaken in inpatient and community settings in Western Australia. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers with QSR NVivo 10 software used to help manage data. Data analysis was informed by multiple theoretical standpoints, including the social ecological model, critical cultural theories and the ‘cultural security’ framework. Thematic analysis was carried out that identified patterns within data.
Fifteen palliative care providers were interviewed. Overall they reported lack of understanding of Aboriginal culture and being uncertain of the needs and priorities of Aboriginal people during end-of-life care. According to several participants, very few Aboriginal people had an understanding of palliative care. Managing issues such as anger, denial, the need for non-medical support due to socioeconomic disadvantage, and dealing with crises and conflicts over funeral arrangements were reported as some of the tensions between Aboriginal patients and families and the service providers.
Early referral to palliative care is important in demonstrating and maintaining a caring therapeutic relationship. Paramount to meeting the needs for Aboriginal patients was access to appropriate information and logistical, psychological and emotional support. These were often seen as essential but additional to standard palliative care services. The broader context of Aboriginal history and historical distrust of mainstream services was seen to impinge on Aboriginal people’s willingness and ability to accept care and support from these services. This context needs to be understood and acknowledged at the system level. More cultural safety training was requested by care providers but it was not seen as replacing the need for an Aboriginal worker in the palliative care team.
Palliative care; End of life care; Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cultural safety; Australia
Partnerships between different health services are integral to addressing the complex health needs of vulnerable populations. In Australia, partnerships between Aboriginal1 community controlled and mainstream services can extend health care options and improve the cultural safety of services. However, although government funding supports such collaborations, many factors can cause these arrangements to be tenuous, impacting the quality of health care received. Research was undertaken to explore the challenges and enhancers of a government initiated service partnership between an Aboriginal Community Controlled alcohol and drug service and three mainstream alcohol rehabilitation and support services.
Sixteen staff including senior managers (n=5), clinical team leaders (n=5) and counsellors (n=6) from the four services were purposively recruited and interviewed. Interviews were semi-structured and explored staff experience of the partnership including the client intake and referral process, shared client care, inter-service communication and ways of working.
Results & discussion
Communication issues, partner unfamiliarity, ‘mainstreaming’ of Aboriginal funding, divergent views regarding staff competencies, client referral issues, staff turnover and different ways of working emerged as issues, emphasizing the challenges of working with a population with complex issues in a persistent climate of limited resourcing. Factors enhancing the partnership included adding a richness and diversity to treatment possibilities and opportunities to explore different, more culturally appropriate ways of working.
While the literature strongly advises partnerships be suitably mature before commencing service delivery, the reality of funding cycles may require partnerships become operational before relationships are adequately consolidated. Allowing sufficient time and funding for both the operation and relational aspects of a partnership is critical, with support for partners to regularly meet and workshop arrangements. Documentation that makes clear and embeds working arrangements between partners is important to ameliorate many of the issues that can arise. Given the historical undercurrents, flexible approaches are required to focus on strengths that contribute to progress, even if incremental, rather than on weaknesses which can undermine efforts. This research offers important lessons to assist other services collaborating in post-colonial settings to offer treatment pathways for vulnerable populations.
Aboriginal; Mainstream; Vulnerable populations; Partnerships; Health services
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
Missing or incorrect Indigenous status in health records hinders monitoring of Indigenous health indicators. Linkage of administrative data has been used to improve the ascertainment of Indigenous status. Data linkage was pioneered in Western Australia (WA) and is now being used in other Australian states. This systematic review appraises peer-reviewed Australian studies that used data linkage to elucidate the impact of under-ascertainment of Indigenous status on health indicators.
A PubMed search identified eligible studies that used Australian linked data to interrogate Indigenous identification using more than one identifier and interrogated the impact of the different identifiers on estimation of Indigenous health indicators.
Eight papers were included, five from WA and three from New South Wales (NSW). The WA papers included a self-identified Indigenous community cohort and showed improved identification in hospital separation data after 2000. In CVD hospitalised patients (2000–05), under-identification was greater in urban residents, older people and socially more advantaged Indigenous people, with varying algorithms giving different estimates of under-count. Age-standardised myocardial infarction incidence rates (2000–2004) increased by about 10%-15% with improved identification. Under-ascertainment of Indigenous identification overestimated secular improvements in life expectancy and mortality whereas correcting infectious disease notifications resulted in lower Indigenous/ non-Indigenous rate ratios. NSW has a history of poor Indigenous identification in administrative data systems, but the NSW papers confirmed the usefulness of data linkage for improving Indigenous identification and the potential for very different estimates of Indigenous disease indicators depending upon the algorithm used for identification.
Under-identification of Indigenous status must be addressed in health analyses concerning Indigenous health differentials – they cannot be ignored or wished away. This problem can be substantially diminished through data linkage. Under-identification of Indigenous status impacts differently in different disease contexts, generally resulting in under-estimation of absolute and relative Indigenous health indicators, but may perversely overestimate Indigenous rates and differentials in the setting of stigma-associated conditions such as sexually-transmitted and blood-borne virus infections. Under-numeration in Census surveys also needs consideration to address the added problem of denominator undercounts.
Cardiovascular diseases contribute substantially to the poor health and reduced life expectancy of Indigenous Australians. Heart failure is a common, disabling, progressive and costly complication of these disorders. The epidemiology of heart failure and the adequacy of relevant health service provision in Indigenous Australians are not well delineated.
A systematic search of the electronic databases PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, Cinahl Plus, Informit and Google Scholar was undertaken in April 2012 for peer-reviewed journal articles relevant to the topic of heart failure in Indigenous Australians. Additionally, a website search was done to identify other pertinent publications, particularly government reports.
There was a paucity of relevant peer-reviewed research, and government reports dominated the results. Ten journal articles, 1 published conference abstract and 10 reports were eligible for inclusion. Indigenous Australians reportedly have higher morbidity and mortality from heart failure than their non-Indigenous counterparts (age-standardised prevalence ratio 1.7; age-standardised hospital separation ratio ≥3; crude per capita hospital expenditure ratio 1.58; age-adjusted mortality ratio >2). Despite the evident disproportionate burden of heart failure in Indigenous Australians, the accuracy of estimation from administrative data is limited by poor indigenous identification, inadequate case ascertainment and exclusion of younger subjects from mortality statistics. A recent journal article specifically documented a high prevalence of heart failure in Central Australian Aboriginal adults (5.3%), noting frequent undiagnosed disease. One study examined barriers to health service provision for Indigenous Australians in the context of heart failure.
Despite the shortcomings of available published data, it is clear that Indigenous Australians have an excess burden of heart failure. Emerging data suggest that undiagnosed cases may be common in this population. In order to optimise management and to inform policy, high quality research on heart failure in Indigenous Australians is required to delineate accurate epidemiological indicators and to appraise health service provision.
Heart failure; Australia; Indigenous; Aboriginal; Torres Strait Islander; Cardiac failure; Cardiovascular; Heart disease
Indigenous Australians are significantly less likely to participate in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening compared to non-Indigenous people. This study aimed to identify important factors influencing the decision to undertake screening using Faecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT) among Indigenous Australians. Very little evidence exists to guide interventions and programmatic approaches for facilitating screening uptake in this population in order to reduce the disparity in colorectal cancer outcomes.
Interviewer-administered surveys were carried out with a convenience sample (n = 93) of Indigenous Western Australians between November 2009-March 2010 to assess knowledge, awareness, attitudes and behavioural intent in regard to CRC and CRC screening.
Awareness and knowledge of CRC and screening were low, although both were significantly associated with exposure to media advertising (p = 0.008; p < 0.0001). Nearly two-thirds (63%; 58/92) of respondents reported intending to participate in screening, while a greater proportion (84%; 77/92) said they would participate on a doctor’s recommendation. Multivariate analysis with logistic regression demonstrated that independent predictors of screening intention were, greater perceived self-efficacy (OR = 19.8, 95% CI = 5.5-71.8), a history of cancer screening participation (OR = 6.8, 95% CI = 2.0-23.3) and being aged 45 years or more (OR = 4.5, 95% CI = 1.2-16.5). A higher CRC knowledge score (medium vs. low: OR = 9.9, 95% CI = 2.4-41.3; high vs. low: 13.6, 95% CI = 3.4-54.0) and being married or in a de-facto relationship (OR = 6.9, 95% CI = 2.1-22.5) were also identified as predictors of intention to screen with FOBT.
Improving CRC related knowledge and confidence to carry out the FOBT self-screening test through education and greater promotion of screening has the potential to enhance Indigenous participation in CRC screening. These findings should guide the development of interventions to encourage screening uptake and reduce bowel cancer related deaths among Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous peoples have worse health than non-Indigenous, are over-represented amongst the poor and disadvantaged, have lower life expectancies, and success in improving disparities is limited. To address this, research usually focuses on disadvantaged and marginalised groups, offering only partial understanding of influences underpinning slow progress. Critical analysis is also required of those with the power to perpetuate or improve health inequities. In this paper, using Australia as a case example, we explore the effects of ‘White’, Anglo-Australian cultural dominance in health service delivery to Indigenous Australians. We address the issue using race as an organising principle, underpinned by relations of power.
Interviews with non-Indigenous medical practitioners in Western Australia with extensive experience in Indigenous health encouraged reflection and articulation of their insights into factors promoting or impeding quality health care to Indigenous Australians. Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. An inductive, exploratory analysis identified key themes that were reviewed and interrogated in light of existing literature on health care to Indigenous people, race and disadvantage. The researchers’ past experience, knowledge and understanding of health care and Indigenous health assisted with data interpretation. Informal discussions were also held with colleagues working professionally in Indigenous policy, practice and community settings.
Racism emerged as a key issue, leading us to more deeply interrogate the role ‘Whiteness’ plays in Indigenous health care. While Whiteness can refer to skin colour, it also represents a racialized social structure where Indigenous knowledge, beliefs and values are subjugated to the dominant western biomedical model in policy and practice. Racism towards Indigenous patients in health services was institutional and interpersonal. Internalised racism was manifest when Indigenous patients incorporated racist attitudes and beliefs into their lived experience, lowering expectations and their sense of self-worth.
Current health policies and practices favour standardised care where the voice of those who are marginalised is often absent. Examining the effectiveness of such models in reducing health disparities requires health providers to critically reflect on whether policies and practices promote or compromise Indigenous health and wellbeing - an important step in changing the discourse that places Indigenous people at the centre of the problem.
HIV-related stigma, among other factors, has been shown to have an impact on the desire to have children among people living with HIV (PLHIV). Our objective was to explore the experiences of HIV-related stigma among PLHIV in post-conflict northern Uganda, a region of high HIV prevalence, high infant and child mortality and low contraception use, and to describe how stigma affected the desires of PLHIV to have children in the future.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 PLHIV in Gulu district, northern Uganda. The interviews, conducted in Luo, the local language, were audio recorded, transcribed and then translated into English. Thematic data analysis was undertaken using NVivo8 and was underpinned by the “Conceptual Model of HIV/AIDS Stigma”.
HIV-related stigma continues to affect the quality of life of PLHIV in Gulu district, northern Uganda, and also influences PLHIV's desire to have children. PLHIV in northern Uganda continue to experience stigma in various forms, including internal stigma and verbal abuse from community members. While many PLHIV desire to have children and are strongly influenced by several factors including societal and cultural obligations, stigma and discrimination also affect this desire. Several dimensions of stigma, such as types of stigma (received, internal and associated stigma), stigmatizing behaviours (abusing and desertion) and agents of stigmatization (families, communities and health systems), either directly, or indirectly, enhanced or reduced PLHIV's desire to have more children.
The social-cultural context within which PLHIV continue to desire to have children must be better understood by all health professionals who hope to improve the quality of PLHIV's lives. By delineating the stigma process, the paper proposes interventions for reducing stigmatization of PLHIV in northern Uganda in order to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for PLHIV and their children.
HIV; stigma; fertility desire; northern Uganda
Poor neonatal health is a major contributor to under-five mortality in developing countries. A major constraint to effective neonatal survival programme has been the lack of population level data in developing countries. This study investigated the consultation patterns of caregivers during neonatal fatal illness episodes in the rural Matlab sub-district of eastern Bangladesh.
Neonatal deaths were identified through a population-based demographic surveillance system in Matlab ICDDR,B maternal and child health (MCH) project area and an adjoining government service area. Trained project staff administered a structured questionnaire on care seeking to mothers at home who had experienced a neonatal death. Univariate, bivariate and binary multivariate logistic regressions were performed to describe care seeking during the fatal illness episode.
Of the 365 deaths recorded during 2003 and 2004, 84% died in the early (0-7 days) neonatal period, with the remaining deaths occurring over the subsequent 8 to 28 days. The first resort of care by parents was a qualified doctor or paramedic in 37% of cases, followed by traditional and unqualified health care providers in 25%, while 38% sought no care. Thus, almost two thirds (63%) of neonates who died received only traditional and unqualified care or no care at all during their final illness episode. About 22% sought care from more than one provider, including 6% from 3 or more providers. Such plurality in care seeking was more likely among male infants, in the late neonatal period, and in the MCH project area.
The high proportion of neonatal deaths that had received traditional care or no medical care in a rural area of Bangladesh highlights the need to develop community awareness about prompt medical care seeking for neonatal illnesses and to improve access to effective health care. Integration of traditional care providers into mainstream health programs should also be considered.
Northern Uganda experienced severe civil conflict for over 20 years and is also a region of high HIV prevalence. This study examined knowledge of, access to, and factors associated with use of family planning services among people living with HIV (PLHIV) in this region.
Between February and May 2009, a total of 476 HIV clinic attendees from three health facilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda, were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with another 26 participants. Factors associated with use of family planning methods were examined using logistic regression methods, while qualitative data was analyzed within a social-ecological framework using thematic analysis.
There was a high level of knowledge about family planning methods among the PLHIV surveyed (96%). However, there were a significantly higher proportion of males (52%) than females (25%) who reported using contraception. Factors significantly associated with the use of contraception were having ever gone to school [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 4.32, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.33-14.07; p = .015], discussion of family planning with a health worker (AOR = 2.08, 95% CI: 1.01-4.27; p = .046), or with one's spouse (AOR = 5.13, 95% CI: 2.35-11.16; p = .000), not attending the Catholic-run clinic (AOR = 3.67, 95% CI: 1.79-7.54; p = .000), and spouses' non-desire for children (AOR = 2.19, 95% CI: 1.10-4.36; p = .025). Qualitative data revealed six major factors influencing contraception use among PLHIV in Gulu including personal and structural barriers to contraceptive use, perceptions of family planning, decision making, covert use of family planning methods and targeting of women for family planning services.
Multilevel, context-specific health interventions including an integration of family planning services into HIV clinics could help overcome some of the individual and structural barriers to accessing family planning services among PLHIV in Gulu. The integration also has the potential to reduce HIV incidence in this post-conflict region.
HIV/AIDS; contraception; mixed methods; Northern Uganda
As almost half of all refugees currently under United Nations protection are from Afghanistan or Iraq and significant numbers have already been resettled outside the region of origin, it is likely that future research will examine their resettlement needs. A number of methodological challenges confront researchers working with culturally and linguistically diverse groups; however, few detailed articles are available to inform other studies. The aim of this paper is to outline challenges with sampling and recruitment of socially invisible refugee groups, describing the method adopted for a mixed methods exploratory study assessing mental health, subjective wellbeing and resettlement perspectives of Afghan and Kurdish refugees living in New Zealand and Australia. Sampling strategies used in previous studies with similar refugee groups were considered before determining the approach to recruitment
A snowball approach was adopted for the study, with multiple entry points into the communities being used to choose as wide a range of people as possible to provide further contacts and reduce selection bias. Census data was used to assess the representativeness of the sample.
A sample of 193 former refugee participants was recruited in Christchurch (n = 98) and Perth (n = 95), 47% were of Afghan and 53% Kurdish ethnicity. A good gender balance (males 52%, females 48%) was achieved overall, mainly as a result of the sampling method used. Differences in the demographic composition of groups in each location were observed, especially in relation to the length of time spent in a refugee situation and time since arrival, reflecting variations in national humanitarian quota intakes. Although some measures were problematic, Census data comparison to assess reasonable representativeness of the study sample was generally reassuring.
Snowball sampling, with multiple initiation points to reduce selection bias, was necessary to locate and identify participants, provide reassurance and break down barriers. Personal contact was critical for both recruitment and data quality, and highlighted the importance of interviewer cultural sensitivity. Cross-national comparative studies, particularly relating to refugee resettlement within different policy environments, also need to take into consideration the differing pre-migration experiences and time since arrival of refugee groups, as these can add additional layers of complexity to study design and interpretation.
Aboriginal people in Australia experience higher mortality from cancer compared with non-Aboriginal Australians, despite an overall lower incidence. A notable contributor to this disparity is that many Aboriginal people do not take up or continue with cancer treatment which almost always occurs within major hospitals.
Thirty in-depth interviews with urban, rural and remote Aboriginal people affected by cancer were conducted between March 2006 and September 2007. Interviews explored participants' beliefs about cancer and experiences of cancer care and were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers. NVivo7 software was used to assist data management and analysis. Information from interviews relevant to hospital services including and building design was extracted.
Relationships and respect emerged as crucial considerations of participants although many aspects of the hospital environment were seen as influencing the delivery of care. Five themes describing concerns about the hospital environment emerged: (i) being alone and lost in a big, alien and inflexible system; (ii) failure of open communication, delays and inefficiency in the system; (iii) practicalities: costs, transportation, community and family responsibilities; (iv) the need for Aboriginal support persons; and (v) connection to the community.
Design considerations and were identified but more important than the building itself was the critical need to build trust in health services. Promotion of cultural safety, support for Aboriginal family structures and respecting the importance of place and community to Aboriginal patients are crucial in improving cancer outcomes.
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.
Indigenous people throughout the world suffer a higher burden of disease than their non-indigenous counterparts contributing to disproportionate rates of disability. A significant proportion of this disability can be attributed to the adverse effects of smoking. In this paper, we aimed to identify and discuss the key elements of individual-level smoking cessation interventions in indigenous people worldwide. An integrative review of published peer-reviewed literature was conducted. Literature on smoking cessation interventions in indigenous people was identified via search of electronic databases. Documents were selected for review if they were published in a peer-reviewed journal, written in English, published from 1990–2010, and documented an individual-level intervention to assist indigenous people to quit smoking. Studies that met inclusion criteria were limited to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA, despite seeking representation from other indigenous populations. Few interventions tailored for indigenous populations were identified and the level of detail included in evaluation reports was variable. Features associated with successful interventions were integrated, flexible, community-based approaches that addressed known barriers and facilitators to quitting smoking. More tailored and targeted approaches to smoking cessation interventions for indigenous populations are required. The complexity of achieving smoking cessation is underscored as is the need to collaboratively develop interventions that are acceptable and appropriate to local populations.
tobacco; smoking cessation; indigenous; interventions
Measuring the real burden of cardiovascular disease in Australian Aboriginals is complicated by under-identification of Aboriginality in administrative health data collections. Accurate data is essential to measure Australia's progress in its efforts to intervene to improve health outcomes of Australian Aboriginals. We estimated the under-ascertainment of Aboriginal status in linked morbidity and mortality databases in patients hospitalised with cardiovascular disease.
Persons with public hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease in Western Australia during 2000-2005 (and their 20-year admission history) or who subsequently died were identified from linkage data. The Aboriginal status flag in all records for a given individual was variously used to determine their ethnicity (index positive, and in all records both majority positive or ever positive) and stratified by region, age and gender. The index admission was the baseline comparator.
Index cases comprised 62,692 individuals who shared a total of 778,714 hospital admissions over 20 years, of which 19,809 subsequently died. There were 3,060 (4.9%) persons identified as Aboriginal on index admission. An additional 83 (2.7%) Aboriginal cases were identified through death records, increasing to 3.7% when cases with a positive Aboriginal identifier in the majority (≥50%) of previous hospital admissions over twenty years were added and by 20.8% when those with a positive flag in any record over 20 years were incorporated. These results equated to underestimating Aboriginal status in unlinked index admission by 2.6%, 3.5% and 17.2%, respectively. Deaths classified as Aboriginal in official records would underestimate total Aboriginal deaths by 26.8% (95% Confidence Interval 24.1 to 29.6%).
Combining Aboriginal determinations in morbidity and official death records increases ascertainment of unlinked cardiovascular morbidity in Western Australian Aboriginals. Under-identification of Aboriginal status is high in death records.