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2023 In Review

AHCSA RTO - James Bisset

It has definitely been a year of ups and downs within the RTO with certain complexities and also with great outcomes at the same time. All the RTO staff have worked tirelessly through many many changes in the program, including staff changes, variations with the primary health care qualifications, learning the governance of both state and federal legislative requirements that overarch RTO business, building new and reaffirming existing relationships within the educational sector of SA, scoping of new qualifications, training packages and clustered units, professional development opportunities for staff, these, just to name a few of the ‘behind the scenes’ workings that keep the RTO moving in the right direction.

Highlighted this year is the 35 qualifications and ‘skill sets’ issued as well as commencing new classes in October 2023.

2023, parchments/testamurs in the below areas:

  • 29 Cert IV Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice qualifications issued
  • 4 Cert III Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care qualifications issued
  • 2 ‘skill sets’ issued – 1 AMIC and 1 AOD

This consisted of – 21 staff members from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation sector, 9 staff members from various SA Health sites and 5 workers from other non-government entities/organisations.

As mentioned above: commencement of both a new cohort of CERT III and CERT IV classes in October 2023, this consists of 12 staff members from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation sector, 10 staff members from various SA Health sites and 2 workers from other non-government entities/organisations

  • 10 students enrolled in Cert III Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care
  • 14 students enrolled in Cert IV Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice

Shout out to the RTO team and the staff whom came and went (Angel J), a fantastic effort to work our way through the RTOing for 2023, lots of laughs, swings and roundabouts, love and laughter, tears and sadness, happiness and looking forward to doing it all over again in a few weeks’ time with new knowledge and experience we all gained throughout this year :)

Sexual Health and BBV - Sarah Betts

Enhanced 6 week STI screening period from September 4 – October 13 2023 was conducted in SA ACCHs for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16-35 years (alongside promotion of opportunistic testing throughout the year), targeting those who are at higher risk of STI and BBV (re) infection. During this time staff within ACCHS encouraged sexually active young people aged 16-35 years community wide to have an STI check-up to help reduce the transmission of common STIs - chlamydia, gonorrhoea and trichomonas as well as offering testing for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis serology.

Community Engagement grants were offered and funded in collaboration with SHINE SA to promote engagement and participation by young people throughout the state.

The AHCSA Sexual Health Team provided clinical support and community education to several services during the 6-week screen.

The No Shame in Getting Tested campaign, funded by Country SA PHN, was a collaboration between AHCSA and SHINE SA. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of HIV and STI transmission and prevention for Aboriginal young people living in regional and remote communities, and to encourage conversations about testing and treatment to reduce stigma. The campaign included health information for services, as well as educational materials for Aboriginal health care workers. Health promotion resources were developed and distributed to all SA ACCHS, as well as over 30 other health services, NGOs and schools in regional and remote SA.

A poster presentation about this campaign was presented at the Australasian Sexual and Reproductive Health Conference 2023. Resources developed through the campaign are now available for purchase through the SHINE SA online shop.

ATLAS Workshop August 2023

The ATLAS Indigenous Primary Care Surveillance and Research Network focuses on gathering de-identified primary care data related to testing and management of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs). In the near future, ATLAS plans to broaden its focus to encompass surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). ATLAS provides detailed insights to enhance our understanding of the occurrence of STIs and BBVs within Indigenous communities. This includes information on local epidemics, infection patterns, healthcare accessibility, testing and positivity rates, as well as the timeliness of treatment and follow-up.

Key highlights from the 2023 ATLAS workshop included:

  • Further development of the new ATLAS dashboard version 2.0 to identify ways to further enhance CQI, data translation, benchmarking and research opportunities
  • Yadu Health presented ‘Improving Sexual Health Engagement among Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’ – a recent collaboration between Yadu Health, Walkabout Barber and Kirby Institute (supported by AHCSA Sexual Health Team) to enhance STI and BBV testing in young Aboriginal people
  • Nunkuwarrin Yunti presented ‘Enhancing STI + BBV Control Through Collaboration’ showcasing a collaborative project between ATLAS and Nunkuwarrin Yunti
  • ATLAS 2023 Indigenous data interns presented on key learnings and contributions in data science – new internships open for 2024
  • Dr. Aunty Mary Martin explored the impact of cultural influences and importance of sharing information

We would like to thank the services we work with and our partner organisations for your support and collaboration during 2023.

PHMO - Jessica Leonard

We have been pleased to have Dr Sonali Meena join as a second Public Health Medical Officer, joining Dr Jess Leonard. Sonali is working Mondays and Fridays and, like Jess, is trained as a Public Health Physician and GP. Dr David Johnson has returned to AHCSA in the short term on a casual basis, providing support to the team and guidance on environmental health and infectious disease management.

The formal COVID-19 members’ meetings held during the pandemic concluded this month. We are excited to re-start more broad-ranging Public Health Network meetings with services in 2024, and welcome input regarding topics for discussion. Thanks to services for their tireless work over the COVID-19 pandemic to keep communities safe.

Tackling Indigenous Smoking - Tim Lawrence

The Puyu Blasters, AHCSA’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) team, have had a busy year and with some funding and service region changes from 1st July 2023, look forward to a big year in 2024.

With the dramatic uptake of e-cigarettes/vapes in our communities, particularly with younger people, the Puyu Blasters presented to 4,490 youth aged people, teaching staff and youth related organisations in 2024; of the 4,490 people we they presented to, 748 of theese people identified as Aboriginal. Whilst young people under the age of 30 had turned away from smoking in recent years and the addiction and negative health benefits cigarettes bring due to education, unfortunately the tobacco companies have found a new product to addict our young people with nicotine and we are now seeing a new wave of ‘smokers’. With hundreds of thousands of young people worldwide that now have lifelong lung injuries and other negative health outcomes (including loss of life) caused by consuming the chemicals and nicotine in vapes, the Puyu Blasters are one of many TIS teams Australia wide who are trying to inform young people about the dangers of e-cigarettes/vaping so they can make informed decisions and hopefully either never start vaping or start their quit journey.

However, whilst vaping is the new challenge in the TIS space, tobacco use is still high with Aboriginal people; particularly in remote communities. Smoking rates in Australia sit around 13% overall but with Aboriginal people in remote locations it still remains at around 40% and some communities have rates higher than this percentage. From 1st July 2023, the Puyu Blasters where one of three TIS recipients to receive funding until 30th June 2027 in South Australia. This new funding agreement has seen the Puyu Blasters now focusing on a smaller area of South Australia (Upper mid North, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla, Flinders region including Marree, Coober Pedy & Oodnadatta and all areas around these regions) which enables them to focus on the higher tobacco usage rates in these areas, whilst educating about the dangers of vaping also. This change in region has also seen the Puyu Blasters partner with Nganampa Health Council’s TIS team who will continue to do their great work in the APY Lands.

Research and Ethics - Lida Shams

Despite a period of slowdown, AHREC has showcased remarkable resilience and efficiency.

We've successfully responded to almost 150 different inquiries, conducted four committee meetings, and efficiently handled a many of tasks. This includes processing more than 30 new applications, addressing around 25 modification requests, and providing advice to approximately 35 researchers who reached out through calls or emails. Additionally, many annual reports revised which maintaining high standards of operation.

thanks to our outstanding committee members for their unwavering support and dedication.

Special appreciation goes to Dr. Sonali and Angel, whose contributions have boosted AHREC’s efforts.

So grateful to the rest of the AHCSA staff for their patience in answering my questions or providing emotional support.

AHREC remains committed in its promise to offering, support, and consultation to ethical research practices that benefit the Aboriginal community.

Look forward to exiting updates and inspiring news from AHREC as we step into an ambitious 2024!

Environmental Health - Chris Rektsinis

The Eye Program and Ear Program continue to support AHCSA Member Services with facilitation of all visiting eye & ear practitioner services, and provide training & mentoring to clinic staff. For eyes the focus is on primary eye health & vision care, and screening for diabetic retinopathy primarily through retinal photography.  For ears the focus is primary ear & hearing health, and timely screening and treatment for otitis media particularly in children where the prevalence is highest.  These Programs also continue to drive advocacy through both state-based and regional stakeholder engagements toward key system reforms for improving patient access and stronger pathways of timely, efficient and culturally considered care.

The Trachoma Program continues the strive to eliminate trachoma and prevent trichiasis, through screening, treatment, and health promotion (SAFE Strategy), together with a broadened focus on the environmental aspects of trachoma elimination and thus overlaps the work of the Rheumatic Heart Disease Project Officer to indeed address issues also common to other public infections such as scabies and rheumatic heart disease.  This includes building an adequate environmental health workforce, and provision of infrastructure and maintenance necessary for healthy homes and housing hygiene.