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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 37(2)

Chronic condition management and self-management in Aboriginal communities in South Australia: outcomes of a longitudinal study

Peter W. Harvey A E , John Petkov B , Inge Kowanko C , Yvonne Helps D and Malcolm Battersby A

A Margaret Tobin Centre, Flinders University, Flinders Drive, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia. Email: Malcolm.battersby@flinders.edu.au
B University of South Australia, Mount Gambier, SA 5290, Australia. Email: john.petkov@unisa.edu.au
C Flinders University, Flinders Drive, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia. Email: inge.kowanko@flinders.edu.au
D Aboriginal Health Council of SA, King William Road, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Email: yvonne.helps@ahcsa.org.au
E Corresponding author. Email: peter.harvey@flinders.edu.au

Australian Health Review 37(2) 246-250 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH12165
Submitted: 3 April 2012  Accepted: 30 August 2012   Published: 1 February 2013

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Objectives. This paper describes the longitudinal component of a larger mixed methods study into the processes and outcomes of chronic condition management and self-management strategies implemented in three Aboriginal communities in South Australia. The study was designed to document the connection between the application of structured systems of care for Aboriginal people and their longer-term health status.

Methods. The study concentrated on three diverse Aboriginal communities in South Australia; the Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service, the Riverland community, and Nunkuwarrin Yunti Aboriginal Health Service in the Adelaide metropolitan area. Repeated-measure clinical data were collected for individual participants using a range of clinical indicators for diabetes (type 1 and 2) and related chronic conditions. Clinical data were analysed using random effects modelling techniques with changes in key clinical indicators being modelled at both the individual and group levels.

Results. Where care planning has been in place longer than in other sites overall improvements were noted in BMI, cholesterol (high density and low density lipids) and HbA1c. These results indicate that for Aboriginal patients with complex chronic conditions, participation in and adherence to structured care planning and self-management strategies can contribute to improved overall health status and health outcomes.

Conclusions. The outcomes reported here represent an initial and important step in quantifying the health benefits that can accrue for Aboriginal people living with complex chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory disease. The study highlights the benefits of developing long-term working relationships with Aboriginal communities as a basis for conducting effective collaborative health research programs.

What is known about the topic? Chronic condition management and self-management programs have been available to Aboriginal people in a range of forms for some time. We know that some groups of patients are keen to engage with care planning and self-management protocols and we have anecdotal evidence of this engagement leading to improved quality of life and health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

What does this paper add? This paper provides early evidence of sustained improvement over time for a cohort of Aboriginal people who are learning to deal with a range of chronic illnesses through accessing structured systems of support and care.

What are the implications for practitioners? This longitudinal evidence of improved outcomes for Aboriginal people is encouraging and should lead on to more definitive studies of outcomes accruing for people engaged in structured systems of care. Not only does this finding have implications for the overall management of chronic illness in Aboriginal communities, but it points the way to how health services might best invest their resources and efforts to improve the health status of people with chronic conditions and, in the process, close the gap between the life expectancy of Aboriginal people and that of other community groups in Australia.


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