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  • 11% of First Nation babies missed in birth data

    Author: Haley Williams

A study from the Royal Women’s Hospital and La Trobe University confirms Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander families receive high standards of care when patients are correctly identified.

However, new data reveals that 11 per cent of First Nations babies were missed in the birth data for the state-wide Perinatal Data Collection Unit, and 14 per cent of First Nations women across three Victorian maternity hospitals were not identified at the beginning of pregnancy.

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Researchers at the Royal Women’s Hospital say it is vital to increase this identification rate as this is the best time to offer culturally appropriate continuity of care.

Lead Researcher Ms Fiona McLardie-Hore, Midwifery and Maternity Services Research Unit Coordinator at the Women’s, says consistent data entry was one of the main issues across the three study sites.

“We can’t close the gap in health outcomes if we don’t identify First Nations mothers and babies and provide the care they need.

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“In some instances, there was no place to record the First Nations identity of a newborn - and this critical information was missing on the official birth registration forms. All sites have since rectified this,” says Ms McLardie-Hore.

Workforce education also remains a key step at Victorian hospitals, explains Ms McLardie-Hore.

“We need to make sure hospital staff in Victoria know how and when to ask patients whether they identify as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This ensures hospitals services and resources are provided where they are most needed.”

The Women’s Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Djiringanj & Walbunja woman Aunty Gina Bundle, says data from the Baggarrook Yurrongi project confirmed that providing First Nations parents with continuity of midwifery care improves the outcomes for mums and bubs.

“It is important for us to know who your mobs and country are when you first come in, so we can help to create your birthing journey.

“Historically, hospitals have not always been a safe place for First Nations people. We here at the Women’s continuously work hard to create a culturally safe, nurturing place, as well as ‘close the gap’ in maternity and newborn outcomes,” Aunty Gina says.

Professor of Midwifery and Maternity Services Research at the Women’s, Dr Della Forster, says it is critical to have accurate data in this area.

“At the Women’s, we are passionate about addressing and improving the disproportionately poorer perinatal health outcomes experienced by First Nations mothers and babies.

“The identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a vital part of ensuring access to our culturally safe models of maternity care,” Dr Forster says.

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Haley Williams

Haley Williams has a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism and over a decade of experience in the media, marketing and communications industries.

She is a widely published journalist with a particular interest in writing magazine features on parenting, health, fitness, nutrition and education.

Before becoming a freelance journalist, Haley worked as a writer for NeoLife (a worldwide nutrition company), News Limited and APN News & Media.

Haley also has extensive experience as an SEO Content Writer and Digital Marketing Strategist.