October 9, 2018

How does research impact on Indigenous health?

Northern Health’s Research Week kicked off with guest speaker, Professor Sandra Eades presenting on the role of research in improving health for Indigenous Australians.

“In terms of Aboriginal health, the number one thing is partnerships with local Aboriginal people and building an agenda with them around improving health outcomes,” she said.

Professor Eades is Associate Dean (Indigenous), Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne. She is a Noongar woman from Mount Barker, Western Australia and is Australia’s first Aboriginal medical doctor to be awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (2003).

Over the past decade, she has made substantial contributions to the area of Aboriginal health and has provided leadership at a national level in Aboriginal research, as she is strongly committed to capacity building.

Professor Eades says Northern Health, as a generalist hospital, deals with various challenges like improving pregnancy outcomes, early childhood outcomes, adult chronic disease, mental health and drug and alcohol abuse.

“There are a lot of things which could be prevented, but that prevention agenda has to involve the hospital with a strong community general practice and partnerships,” she said.

As the Aboriginal population ages, Professor Eades feels that issues like heart disease, preventing dementia, managing and getting better treatment outcomes for diabetes are key areas to be looked at.

“I think there’s a real opportunity for hospitals and Aboriginal communities,” she said.

As almost half of the Aboriginal babies born in Australia are born to mothers under 24 years, it’s equally important to focus on the younger generation, as they are actually the parents or will be in the next few years.

“This is how you are also having an added impact on maternal and child health, as well as family health,” she added.

Professor Eades also talked about empowerment through development and training of Indigenous research leaders,  focusing on engagement and partnership with Indigenous communities to address their priorities.

Dr Peter Azzopardi, the second speaker today, also had the younger generation in focus. He has over 10 years experience in adolescent health programming, clinical medicine and research. Dr Azzopardi is an adolescent physician by training and has worked across many settings in the Western Pacific region.

He also recently completed his PhD, a project where he described the health and wellbeing of Indigenous adolescents living in Australia using national survey data, hospital data and mortality data. His research focused on creating a health profile of adolescent Indigenous Australians, as they represent a third of the Aboriginal population.

“There’s a need to be thinking about the adolescence age group because of the opportunities they provide for the population,” he said.

Make sure to check out the amazing speakers this week as part of Northern Health Research 2018.