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Pain management program targets urban Indigenous people

Psychologist Tabinda Basit
Photo: Psychologist Tabinda Basit
Two Queensland allied health professionals have developed a culturally appropriate chronic pain management program for urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Psychologist Tabinda Basit, who works at Brisbane’s Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, and Dr Emma Campbell, an occupational therapist and associate lecturer at the University of Queensland,  created the Pain Heroes self-management chronic pain program due to a lack of culturally responsive programs for urban Indigenous people.

Ms Basit said research into chronic pain prevalence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suggests Indigenous people have a unique experience when it comes to chronic pain and its response to different treatments.

“If we know that the way they respond to treatment is different then we should have a treatment program that is distinctive for that group of people and not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said.
The two non-Indigenous allied health practitioners consulted with Aboriginal health workers, dietitians, nurses, exercise physiologists and GPs to develop the health behaviour change program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Pain Heroes program, which provides six information and discussion sessions, has now been piloted at two health clinics.

The sessions feature topics covering - what is chronic pain, the body systems that involve chronic pain, relaxation strategies for pain and medication, and also introduce clients to GPs and allied health professionals in an informal setting.

“I think one of the big aims of the program is to actually increase access to allied health for those clients,” Ms Basit said.

“They might have chronic pain and only be seeing their GP. It’s kind of about opening their eyes and saying - well, there are a lot of health professionals that can help you with this and these are the different things that they do - so it’s not so confronting.”

The sessions are designed to build knowledge and self-management skills in Indigenous people experiencing chronic pain through a culturally responsive framework that is group-focused, features a holistic model of health, and also uses ‘yarning’ for peer-to-peer information sharing.

“One of the practices that is highly valued amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is having a yarn,” Ms Basit said.

“That is really the sharing of experiences and it’s a real mutual process - which is what we are trying to emulate.”

Ms Basit said the program, which has received positive feedback, is continuing to evolve from clients’ feedback, and is likely to be rolled out at more clinics in Queensland.

Ms Basit will present an abstract on Pain Heroes at the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) Health Psychology Conference, being held in Sydney from April 10-11.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords