Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Special Interest Group

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Special Interest Group

Working together for the sexual and reproductive health of future generations: engagement and collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

A Look Back: History Columns of Shame, Guerrera D., Lawrie W, 2012

Inequalities in sexual and reproductive health outcomes disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • The birth rate of teenage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (75 births per 1000 women) is more than four times that of all teenage women (16 births per 1000 women).[i][ii]
  • 51% of all hospitalisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people were related to pregnancy complications. Rates of pre-term deliveries are double and proportions of low weight births are three times higher. [iii]
  • STI rates are five to 10 times higher[iv]
  • Infant mortality between 2007 and 2009 was 7.8 deaths per 1000 births, compared to the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander mortality rate during the same period of 4 deaths per 1000 births. [v]

Because the health, social, and economic consequences of these disparities are considerable, SH&FPA supports the DOHA funded National Action Plan to create mutual, whole of health and wellbeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual and reproductive health policy priorities that are practical, achievable, and have tangible outcomes for these communities.

No single sector or organisation can achieve this overarching goal. It requires partnerships that harness the collective efforts within and across government, non-profit organisations, and communities to ‘Close the Gap’ in Indigenous disadvantage. It also requires a practical application within policy and service delivery systems of ‘Aborigina and Torres Strait Islanderl health’—not just the physical well being of an individual but also the social, emotional, and cultural well being of the whole community.

SH&FPA is working alongside organisations such as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to develop policies based on a shared understanding of sexual and reproductive health with respect for what works for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In September 2012, NACCHO and SH&FPA hosted a symposium called, ‘Working together for the sexual and reproductive health of future generations: engagement and collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.’

Participants agreed on principles for engagement and a set of broad objectives for what could be achieved through working together. These include:

  • Sexual and reproductive health should be embedded in a holistic, primary health care approach that is multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary, with a lifespan perspective.
  • Aboriginal health workers require structural support to facilitate their scope of practice and legitimacy within a multi-disciplinary team
  • Long-term health activities, sustained over time, are needed
  • Flexibility and allowing for time to meaningfully work with these communities, their protocols and processes, are a key to success, capacity building, and research to build knowledge and skills

To achieve these national advocacy objectives, six key priority areas underpin the National Action Plan for Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sexual and reproductive health outcomes [link to DRAFT in dropbox under Report #4]. While these priority areas signal a call for long-term action to achieve sustainable outcomes, the actions are designed to change as progress is made in national advocacy and policy development. The key result areas are:

  1. Workforce planning and development
  2. Healthy Families
  3. Embedding culture, history, and social determinants
  4. Systems and policy reform
  5. Promotion and social marketing
  6. Evaluation and capacity building

SH&FPA also convened an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Special Interest Group (SIG) in November 2011. The group was established to guide and oversee the identification of current unmet needs and to develop and implement an action plan to improve sexual and reproductive health, through improved access to services.

Download a copy of the September 2012 Symposium Report here

Download a copy of the National Action Plan here

 

References

[i]Zubrick SR, Silburn SR, Lawrence DM, Mitrou FG & Dalby RC., 2005, The social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous children and young people, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Curing University of Technology: Perth. Cited in A Literature Review of Indigenous Health Literacy, Prepared for Shine SA, Flinders University, SACHRU, p13

[ii]United Nations Children’s Fund, 2012, State of the World’s Children, UNICEF: New York

[iii]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare., 2006, Young Australians: their health and wellbeing, Bulletin No. 36, AIHW:Canberra, ACT.

[iv] Blumer C, Roche P, Spencer J, Lin M, Milton A, Bunn C, Gidding H, Kaldor J, Kirk M, Hall R, Della-Porta T, Leader R & Wright P., 2003, Australia’s notifiable diseases status, 2001: annual report of the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System Communicable Diseases Intelligence, 27:1 pp1–78.

[v] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and, Torres Strait Islander people, an overview 2011. Cat. no. IHW 42. Canberra: AIHW