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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 37(4)

Health professionals’ views on Indigenous health and the delivery of healthcare services in the Pilbara

Bruce F. Walker A C , Norman J. Stomski A , Anne E. Price B and Elizabeth Jackson-Barrett B

A School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.
B School of Education, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: bruce.walker@murdoch.edu.au

Australian Health Review 37(4) 431-436 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH13059
Submitted: 22 March 2013  Accepted: 14 July 2013   Published: 10 September 2013


 
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Abstract

Purpose To explore health professionals’ views about Australian Indigenous people’s health and the delivery of healthcare to them in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

Methods An open-ended questionnaire was used to gather information from health professionals located across diverse regions in the Pilbara. The responses were analysed with the use of thematic analysis. In the first stage, codes were developed by assigning names to small sections of the interview transcripts. Next, the most salient incisive codes were identified and developed into themes that captured the most important issues.

Findings Twenty-eight health professionals indicated that the most important health issues were chronic diseases, substance abuse and ear disease. These health issues were often attributed to a cycle of poor health perpetuated throughout generations. Educational initiatives were thought to be integral to intervening in this cycle. Of particular importance in improving the effectiveness of educational initiatives was facilitating the participation of Australian Indigenous peoples to determine the content of such initiatives. The other main issues the health professionals identified were lifting the standard of Australian Indigenous housing and implementing strategies to improve the continuity of healthcare.

Conclusion Educational initiatives need to be prioritised to improve the health of Australian Indigenous people in the Pilbara and the initiatives should be delivered with the involvement of the local community in order to increase the likelihood of sustained behavioural change. Innovative solutions are required to improve the continuity of healthcare in the Pilbara, including increased use of mobile services.

What is known about this topic? About two out of every three Indigenous adults in the Pilbara experience a chronic health condition. Moreover, compared with non-Indigenous peoples in the region, Indigenous peoples experience a significantly higher mortality rate for numerous chronic health conditions. Although some information is available about the provision of health services for Indigenous people in the Pilbara, little is known about its adequacy or how it could be most effectively delivered.

What does this paper add? This study details health professionals’ views about the types of health conditions that need to be prioritised in addressing the health needs of Indigenous people in the Pilbara. It also details health professionals’ perceptions of gaps in health service delivery for Indigenous people in the Pilbara and examines how these services could be most effectively delivered.

What are the implications for practitioners? Educational initiatives need to be prioritised to improve the health of Australian Indigenous people in the Pilbara and the initiatives should be delivered with the involvement of the local community in order to increase the likelihood of sustained behavioural change. Innovative solutions are required to improve the continuity of healthcare in the Pilbara, including increased use of mobile services.



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