A greater understanding of Indigenous cultural practice could be the key to closing the gap on heart disease

A greater understanding of Indigenous cultural practice could be the key to closing the gap on heart disease

Faced with disproportionately higher rates of heart disease than non-Indigenous people, an initiative is working with Australian hospitals to foster greater trust between the medical sector and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

                                     BY MADDISON LANGLEY

The Lighthouse Hospital Project is a joint effort between the Heart Foundation and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association.

With the assistance of federal funding, the program is collaborating with 18 hospitals around the country, providing education on how to better engage with Indigenous Australian patients.

Based on Close The Gap statistics, Indigenous Australians are three times more likely to have a heart attack and be admitted to hospital for acute coronary syndrome than other Australians.

 

While three times more likely to suffer from heart disease, Indigenous Australians are less likely to receive rehabilitation. Imaged sourced from: https://www.neura.edu.au/health/aboriginal-ageing/

 

Despite this figure, this group are less likely than non-Indigenous Australians with heart disease to have cardiac procedures, or to receive rehabilitation after a heart attack.

For National Manager, Reitai Minogue, the cause of this is a lack of cultural awareness.

She said, “Many [Indigenous Australians] have a distrust of hospitals, and they might encounter poor communication, institutionalised racism or cultural sensitivity.”

Ms Minogue said hospitals must earn the trust of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by listening to past experiences of in-patient care and then work together to make significant changes.

 “It will ensure individual hospital projects are responding to identified needs of the community and will create locally- based solutions.” She said.

Faced with the task of tackling this public health issue, the Lighthouse Project have released a comprehensive 5 point strategy, identifying key aspects for improvement. They are:

  • expanding roles for Aboriginal Liaison officers, Health Workers, Patient Pathway Officers and equivalent roles
  •  better identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients
  • building strong partnerships and communication channels with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and other relevant organisations
  • fostering and supporting clinical champions
  • and building capacity for patient-focused care

As the project enters the third phase of Government funding, the project aims to reach,  “over one in every three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples admitted to hospital for a cardiac condition by recruiting… hospitals across the country to implement the quality improvement toolkit.”

The toolkits allow for individualised planning and outcomes to suit each of the 18 hospitals, factoring in location and cultural area history.

To find out more about the project, click here.

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