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High praise for Alice Springs health service

Photo: HIGH PRAISE FOR ALICE SPRINGS HEALTH SERVICE
The benefits of ‘Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands’ has received endorsement from a wide-ranging investigation of Australian primary health care services.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs stood out as a leader in the delivery of comprehensive primary health care in a study by Flinders University researchers at the Southgate Institute for Health, Society, and Equity.

Southgate director Professor Fran Baum says the service’s strengths include its ability to provide a one-stop-shop and outreach services, along with free medicines and support, and advocacy on community issues such as improved access to health services, alcohol and early childhood. 

Professor Baum says the strengths of Aboriginal community-controlled primary health care service model emerged clearly as part of the six-year study.
“In fact, this model when done well could be described as a world leader in the global push under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for Universal Health Coverage,” Professor Baum says.

“The Congress was the best example of all six services studied because it so effectively provides the community with self-determination, and greater control over their own health and health care rather than other more top-down programs run by government and other agencies.

“The genius of the Aboriginal community-controlled model is that it is able to take the best of a strong medical model of care and combine it with a social health model.” 

The Congress’s Chief Executive Officer, Ms Donna Ah Chee, says there has been a 30% decrease in all cause mortality for Aboriginal people in the NT since 2001.

“When Congress started 40 years ago, infant mortality rates were around 170 deaths per 1,000 live births and now they are around 12,” Ms Ah Chee says.

“Our babies are no longer dying from easily preventable causes and the challenge has moved to the promotion of healthier development.

“More than 300 staff are able to provide more than 160,000 episodes of care each year to about 12,000 Aboriginal people living in Alice Springs and in six remote community clinics in Central Australia.”

Southgate senior research fellow Toby Freeman says the research bears out other commentary about the need for more Aboriginal community controlled primary health care services and other Aboriginal controlled organisations.

“As chronic disease in Australia continues to rise, and accessibility of health care becomes a greater concern, the research points to the importance of safeguarding and looking at alternative models of health care,” Mr Freeman says.

“We have found Aboriginal community controlled health services can comprehensively help people to tackle ill health and promote good health in the community.” 

Read the article “Case Study of an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Service in Australia: Universal, Rights-Based, Publicly Funded Comprehensive Primary Health Care in Action” at https://www.hhrjournal.org/2016/12/case-study-of-an-aboriginal-community-controlled-health-service-in-australia-universal-rights-based-publicly-funded-comprehensive-primary-health-care-in-action/ .

The findings have also been the subject of a report “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” by Dr Pamela Lyon, at http://www.flinders.edu.au/medicine/fms/sites/southgate/documents/CPHC%20Congress%20Final%20Report.pdf

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