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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Alcohol and other drugs knowledge centre Yarning Places

Heart Foundation WA shares lessons learnt from working with Aboriginal people

Date posted: 5 January 2012

The Heart Foundation WA (HFWA) recently released a paper encouraging not-for-profit organisations to take a comprehensive approach to reducing health disparities for Aboriginal people.

'While there is increasing recognition in the Australian public health arena of the need for more culturally appropriate responses to Aboriginal health, many organisations (government and non-government) struggle with how to effectively do this,' says Director for Cardiovascular Health Mr Trevor Shilton.

Mr Shilton says proactive employment of Aboriginal people, appointment of Aboriginal people to boards and working groups, as well as the establishment of a dedicated Aboriginal health program integrated across all areas of activity are the key elements not-for-profit organisations need to look at to implement secure and competent health practices for Aboriginal people.

Coordinator Aboriginal Health Ms Lyn Dimer (Aboriginal herself) agrees.

'Other not-for-profit organisations need to work effectively with Aboriginal staff and allow them to work in Aboriginal ways as they best understand the people, the way of working and how best to deliver,' she says.

'It is also about integrating your program into the needs of the community and not the other way around.'

'We'd like to see more Aboriginal people employed in wards to be a first port of call especially for Aboriginal people from rural and remote areas, so not only is there familiarity but also someone who understands their cultural ways.'

However, Ms Dimer and Mr Shilton say the Heart Foundation WA's re-structure of governance, policies and programs didn't happen overnight.

'We needed to consult, listen and implement what the local Aboriginal community were saying. They were initially suspicious because they had seen programs commence and then fold not long after. But the Heart Health group now counts 200 registered patients,' she says.

'It's wonderful to see families coming and learning together, not just the people who have had a cardiac event or chronic illness.'

"The local Aboriginal people are extremely content and happy with the program.'

Ms Dimer and Mr Shilton are calling on other not-for-profit organisations, especially cardiac rehabilitation, to collaborate to help reduce health disparities in the community.

For access to the Heart Foundation WA's published paper, see links below.

Source: ScienceNetwork Western Australia


Last updated: 18 April 2012
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