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Medical services acknowledged for commitment to Closing the Gap

Two Hunter New England based medical services have been named joint winners of the Closing the Gap Award at the 2022 Primary Care Quality and Innovation Awards.

Elden Street Medical and Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service were presented with the joint award by the PHN at a gala event held in Newcastle on Friday 24 June.

In what is an unprecedented National Agreement, Closing the Gap acknowledges the ongoing strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in sustaining the world’s oldest living cultures.

It is underpinned by the belief that when First Nations people have a genuine say in the design and delivery of policies, programs and services that affect them, better life outcomes are achieved.

Similarly, The PHN's Closing the Gap Award recognises the practice, health centre and/or service provider who has demonstrated a deep understanding of the diversity of, and differences in, our communities to address health inequalities.

Elden Street Medical

Closing the Gap is a primary focus at Elden Street Medical. The GP and small team of staff are trained in cultural safety and provide an environment that is welcoming and safe for First Nations people.

Almost all of Elden Streets patients identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin and we provide ongoing opportunities for identification as we build professional relationships with our patients. Where appropriate, the team collaborate with local Aboriginal health services at Yerin, Bungree, Nunyara and Ngiyang to increase access to care specific to patient needs.

The practice is committed to pilot programs and initiatives that contribute towards closing the gap. For example, the healthy weight program offered participation to Indigenous patients who were overweight or obese to address lifestyle and diet changes for longer and healthier lives.

Staff identified that several Aboriginal patients were experiencing Osteoarthritis and Osteoporosis so engaged the services of a Physiotherapist and the arranged for the Bone Bus to visit the practice.

Participation in the Heart Foundation heart health pilot has improved discussions with patients around heart health, which is especially important for First Nations people. Elden Street also reached out to the First Nations community for Covid-19 vaccination and works with everyone in a culturally sensitive way to improve overall vaccination rates.

In total, 715 health checks have been completed for 90 per cent of the practice’s First Nations patients.

Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service

Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service is located on the Lands of the Worimi Nation in Foster. It is staffed by 37 local Aboriginal community members who have lived experience of the needs of the local Aboriginal community.

The Service is driven to improve the health outcomes for the local Aboriginal community. For this to be achieved it must first re-engage with community members who for a variety of reasons have disengaged with the service.

Facilitated yarning circles provide a space for community to come together in a safe and supportive environment to discuss social, emotional, and well-being issues.

Since commencement, participation has increased from three people to 140. The sessions provide community the necessary tools to build capability through education and information, providing practical life skills such as cooking, health literacy and healthy lifestyle choices. This builds their confidence and ability to achieve healthier outcomes along with self-management strategies to modify risk factors for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and issues related to mental health and wellbeing.

Local Aboriginal elders are engaged to provide cultural mentoring to non-Aboriginal staff through structured mentoring sessions that enable GP registrars to understand local, social, and cultural determinates of health that impact the lives of the local Aboriginal community to better inform a holistic model of care for our community.

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