Modelling a vision for Aboriginal health

The Northern Rivers Division of General Practice will help set up a model of an ideal Aboriginal health service, with the aim being to eventually have it implemented locally.

The team creating the model will include a variety of health professionals and at least one member will be a local Aboriginal person with connections to key groups in the community.

The health profile of the local Aboriginal community remains very poor compared to mainstream Australia, said Dr Dan Ewald, who will represent the Northern Rivers Division of General Practice as project advisor. It is wrong that they make do with inadequate services when their need is so great.

Dr Ewald, who works as a GP at the Bunjum Co-operative in Ballina twice a week, said the part time services that local Aboriginal people have access to is not nearly enough. He is adamant that there needs to be a health service that is tailored specifically for Aboriginal people, providing them with regular and consistent access to all aspects of medical care.

Aboriginal people may face social discrimination and negative assumptions real or imagined in mainstream, white fella medical services, said Dr Ewald. If we can deliver them a service that will have an Aboriginal face to it that is more culturally comfortable and safe, they will be more likely to use it.

While the group is yet to identify what health services local Aboriginal communities need, the model is likely to suggest provision of regular diabetes checks, vaccinations, pap smears, cholesterol checks and an efficient reminder and recall system.

From my point of view I see a lot of people with chronic disease and a lot of premature deaths, and I know that theres good evidence-based health care that could be delivered to them that would make them feel better and live longer. Me going down with my bag of stuff and sitting in a room is not a health service, said Dr Ewald. Its better than nothing, and thats why I keep doing it, but its frustrating.

The project has to be completed and delivered to the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing by the end of November to ensure that it gets approval, receives recurrent funding and becomes a reality for Northern Rivers Aboriginal communities.


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