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Tue, 12 Dec 2017

Funding boost for indigenous healthcare

James Cook University scientists have won funding for two projects to improve the health of Indigenous Australians in northern Australia.

Professor Sarah Larkins leads teams that were granted more than $2.8 million to find ways to deliver better health services and boost child and maternal health for indigenous peoples living in northern Australia.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has granted $1.1 million for the Leveraging Effective Ambulatory Practices (LEAP) project, and more than $1.7 million for the Women’s action for Mums and Bubs (WOMB) project.

The LEAP Partnership project aims to review health services offered by Indigenous Primary Health Care services in northern Australia through addressing barriers to improvement. Professor Larkins said it was about getting Indigenous people’s healthcare up to a world-class standard and increasing partnerships.

“If Indigenous Primary Health Care services want to be part of the program, the first thing we’ll do is go and talk to them and find out what their needs are and where we can help.”

Based on those discussions, she said the JCU team and their partners will find ways to overcome problems identified while promoting the goal of constant quality improvement.

“The health services will have their own priorities and can choose from the customisable toolkit of solutions we will come up with. We’ll then do assessments to see what’s working and what’s not and change strategy if necessary,” said Professor Larkins.

She said the WOMB project would try an approach that had been used effectively overseas to improve maternal and child health in Indigenous communities.

“What we’re going to do is get the community actively involved in addressing challenges in the health of women and babies, with the goal of empowering women. It’s worked overseas to improve maternal health outcomes in impoverished communities, but we frankly don’t know if it will work here. That’s what we aim to find out.”

She said the project will involve setting up women’s groups of trained volunteers to analyse mother and child care audit data and suggest solutions.

“Then we’ll look at whether it works and if it’s cost effective and whether it actually ends up empowering women in these communities,” said Professor Larkins.

She said continuing inequities in most measures of morbidity and mortality for Indigenous women and children demanded immediate action on a number of fronts.

The NHMRC grant will fund the WOMB project for five years.


Professor Sarah Larkins
P: (07) 4781 3139
E:  sarah.larkins@jcu.edu.au