Community-controlled organisations and culturally tailored healthcare are key to better health outcomes for Indigenous Australians, community leaders say.
Indigenous researchers, health professionals and national leaders have gathered for the seventh annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Conference in Shepparton in northern Victoria.
Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative's Shannon Drake led a successful response to COVID-19 in the region, a result she says depended on a statewide, collaborative reaction and acceptance that a First Nations perspective was a crucial concept to transform public health.
Aboriginal people were identified as having a greater risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, which required an autonomous, inclusive and culturally appropriate response, she said.
The Wamba Wamba/Jaara woman highlighted the importance of instilling self-determination and empowerment within Indigenous communities.
"The fundamental principles, which I hold dear to my heart, is ensuring that the social determinants and health disparity faced by Aboriginal people, that we are the key stakeholders in our futures," she said.
The burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 2.3 times that of non-Indigenous Australians, according to government data.
Melbourne University Associate Professor Luke Burchill, who leads research comparing Indigenous and non-Indigenous incidence of cardiovascular disease, said community-led models should also extend to research.
"If Indigenous health research is to benefit Indigenous people, then it must be Indigenous led," Prof Burchill said.
His study suggested cardiovascular disease datasets needed to be recalibrated for Aboriginal Victorians, due to the risk factors associated with living in areas of high economic disparity.
"Part of how we address cardiovascular health is about getting the risk assessment and the treatment into those communities, opening up the hospitals delivering the care where it's needed most," he said.
The Victorian Rural Health Workforce (VRHW) called for submissions for its census on Wednesday, asking healthcare professionals to help identify workforce shortages and barriers to health outcomes in rural and regional Victoria and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
"This is an opportunity for individual healthcare professionals to fill out their VRHW Census and tell their stories," VRHW chief executive Trevor Carr said in a statement.
"The information they provide will help identify their critical recruitment, retention, professional development and advocacy needs."
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.