$8 million Lighthouse Hospital Project improves acute coronary care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
The Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP recently announced $8 million to expand a project that is transforming hospital care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with acute coronary syndrome.
The Lighthouse Hospital Project, a joint initiative between the Australian Government, the Heart Foundation and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, will be extended from the original eight pilot sites to a further 10 sites across Australia, implementing the Lighthouse Hospital Toolkit.
“This toolkit has been designed to bring about systemic change in acute care in order to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said Minister Wyatt.
“Tackling the social and cultural determinants of health and systemic racism within the health system is the key to better health outcomes for our First Australians. They, like all Australians, have the right to safe, culturally appropriate healthcare of the highest clinical standard.”
The success of the Lighthouse Hospital Project is built on the principle that a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultures, as well as a better understanding of the political, social and historical factors that have affected the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will build cultural competence and bring about better health outcomes.
Minister Wyatt stressed that a culturally competent approach by health professionals is critical to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing.
“In the case of coronary care, circulatory disease is more than one and a half times more likely to affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — but they are only half as likely to receive therapeutic hospital procedures, less likely to receive in-patient cardiac rehabilitation or prescription of statins on discharge from hospital, and are more likely to die within two years of leaving hospital.
“This is simply unacceptable and the way to address it is to undo systemic discrimination, to raise cultural competency across the whole sector as well as to increase the Indigenous health workforce,” said Minister Wyatt.
The Lighthouse Hospital Project Toolkit has produced improvements across the board, from the moment a patient presents at hospital. It is helping improve the kinds of clinical care and treatment people receive and the manner in which they receive it. It has built stronger relationships between hospital staff, family and community and Aboriginal medical services, and improved the care people receive once they leave hospital.
“One of the wonderful things about this project, and the resulting toolkit, is that all hospital staff who participated in the trials have affirmed that the toolkit is essential to improving health outcomes, and that it could be used in any hospital for any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person presenting with any condition,” said Minister Wyatt.
“Research has shown over and over again the disparity in care received by Indigenous Australians as opposed to non-Indigenous people. We intend to embed cultural competency training into mainstream health training, study and clinical practice so that that disparity is eradicated.
The Implementation Plan of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023 makes tackling systemic racism in the health system an explicit target.
“Closing the Gap is not just an Indigenous issue — it is an issue for all of us. It is an issue for our nation. I look forward to continuing to work together to make greater strides in our journey.”
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