Wednesday, 04 January 2012

Health ‘not-for-profits’ implored to include Aboriginal people in programs

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“The local Aboriginal people are extremely content and happy with the program.”—Lyn Dimer. Image: Lyn Dimer and her son Isaiah.

THE Heart Foundation WA (HFWA) recently released a paper advocating other not-for-profit organisations to take a whole-of-organisation top-down approach to effectively reduce 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 can also someone who understands their cultural ways.”

However, Ms Dimer and Mr Shilton say their re-structure of governance, policies and programs didn’t happen overnight. After 15 years of hard work, Ms Dimer says successful programs such as the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service made it all worthwhile.

“We needed to consult, listen and implement what the local Aboriginal community were saying. Although they were initially suspicious because of the programs they saw commenced and then folded not long after, 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 rehab, to collaborate to help reduce health disparities in the community.

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