Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Reducing recurrence of bacterial skin infections in Aboriginal children in rural communities: new ways of thinking, new ways of working

Susan Thomas A E , Kristy Crooks B , Kylie Taylor C , Peter D. Massey B D , Ruth Williams C and Glenn Pearce C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW 2300, Australia, c/o Locked Bag 10, Wallsend, NSW 2287, Australia.

B Hunter New England Local Health District, Population Health, Locked Bag 10, Wallsend, NSW 2287, Australia.

C Hunter New England Local Health District, Population Health, Locked Bag 9783, Tamworth, NSW 2348, Australia.

D College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Cairns, Qld 4870, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: susan.thomas3@hnehealth.nsw.gov.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 23(3) 229-235 https://doi.org/10.1071/PY16135
Submitted: 21 October 2016  Accepted: 15 November 2016   Published: 10 January 2017

Abstract

Reports from health workers, school staff and community members in rural NSW suggested that bacterial skin infections are a significant health issue for Aboriginal children and their families, affecting quality of life and contributing to poor school attendance. Current NSW treatment guidelines do not incorporate important sociocultural factors or ways of living in Aboriginal communities. The aim of this qualitative study was to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of parents and carers of Aboriginal children affected by skin infections and of other community members, health workers and school staff, and what actions have been considered successful or unsuccessful in reducing the recurrence of infection. This study used a Participatory Action Research methodology. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with 38 health workers and managers, school staff, community members and parents and carers. Themes that emerged included: (i) skin infections have become normalised; (ii) skin infections are, in part, a consequence of transgenerational trauma; (iii) skin infections are interwoven with social determinants; (iv) families have survived but more could thrive; and (v) something can and should be done about the problem. The findings of this study will inform the development of more effective and acceptable options to reduce skin infections in Aboriginal children.


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