Wide Bay HHS launches First Nations Health Equity Strategy
Tuesday 1 November 2022
Across Australian and our region, there is a rich and unique history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have a long and lasting connection to Country, reaching back more than 60,000 years.
As a health service and country, we know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not have the same life expectancy and experience more health concerns than non-First Nations people. The inaugural WBHHS First Nations Health Equity Strategy 2022-2026 will guide our health service for the next three years as we work to address this inequity and Close the Gap in life expectancy.
Chief Executive Debbie Carroll acknowledged the importance of the strategy and recognised the vast consultation and input sought while crafting the document, to ensure it meets the needs of our First Nations communities.
“This strategy details the specific actions we will undertake to provide culturally appropriate, safe and responsive services to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Wide Bay,” said Ms Carroll.
“Across five priority areas, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service (WBHHS) is actively focused on working in partnership with First Nations peoples and organisations to achieve the goals and actions of this strategy; actions that were shaped by those who are affected by health inequity the most – our First Nations patients, carers and community members.
“We will be guided by the five priority areas within the strategy and all WBHHS staff will focus our collective efforts to:
- Actively eliminate racial discrimination and institutionalised racism within the organisation
- Increase access to healthcare services
- Influence the social, cultural and economic determinants of health
- Deliver sustainable, culturally safe and responsive health services
- Work with First Nations peoples, communities and organisations to design, deliver, monitor and review health services.”
An extensive consultation period was undertaken at the beginning of the project, with project officers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers engaging in yarning circles across the community. Stories, experiences and truths were shared at these circles, and they underpin the actions and priority areas within the strategy, resulting in a co-designed plan that Board Chair Peta Jamieson says WBHHS can be proud of.
“The First Nations Health Equity Strategy 2022-2025 has provided a unique opportunity to co-design and develop a strong vision and achievable priorities for our organisation, partners and community,” said Ms Jamieson.
“Together with the health service Executive team, the Board would like to acknowledge the great work and commitment of our staff, healthcare partners and consumers, not only throughout the process of drafting this strategy but as we commit to implementing it in the future.”
Key stakeholders in drafting the strategy include Galangoor Dulawami Primary Health Care, the Indigenous Wellbeing Centre, the Primary Health Network and our WBHHS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council. The shared knowledge and commitment of these significant groups is seen in the comprehensive, culturally appropriate and person-centred focus of the strategy.
“It has been a concentrated and collaborative effort to finalise the First Nations Health Equity Strategy, but we are under no illusions that launching the document signifies the entirety of our efforts in this space,” said Ms Carroll.
“The truly important work begins now as we need to work in partnership to implement the actions within the strategy and endeavour to create real supports and bridges to improve the health and wellbeing of our First Nations communities.
“All WBHHS staff have a responsibility to listen, respond and act to support the implementation of our First Nations Health Equity Strategy 2022-2025, as it represents our commitment to building a strong health system that supports the most vulnerable, and which promotes recognition and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and culture.”
This was felt during the official launch of the strategy on 28 October in Bundaberg, where recognition, respect and celebration proved to be the foundation of the event. Health service staff, community partners, First Nations Elders and peoples came together to affirm their commitment to health equity and to honour the rich culture of First Nations people across Wide Bay. A smoking ceremony, Elder’s candle circle, traditional Aboriginal music and song and story sharing were experienced by those in attendance, before a lunch and networking event was held.
“It was wonderful to be part of such an important event and to see the many people committed to Closing the Gap through this strategy,” said Ms Carroll.
“Together, we can all do our part to achieve health equity and improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in our region.”
To find out more about the WBHHS First Nations Health Equity Strategy 2022-2026, head to www.health.qld.gov.au/widebay/publications