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Anaemia management in three remote Aboriginal communities

Evaluation of anaemia management in three remote Aboriginal communities in Katherine East region, Northern Territory

The project evaluates an anaemia prevention program in East Katherine Community A and anaemia best practice guideline fidelity in Communities A, B and C.

The principal partnerships in this project are Sunrise Health, three East Katherine regional communities and Menzies School of Health Research. Sunrise Health is an Aboriginal corporation for improving the health and wellbeing of people in the east Katherine region. The project is being co-lead by Raelene Wing, a Wanyii/Garrawa woman from Katherine who is an Aboriginal Health Practitioner, coordinator for Child Health and the Mothers and Babies Program, and holds the position as Child and Maternal Cluster Manager within the organisation.

In terms of methodology, record reviews will be conducted on electronic primary health care (PHC) records in all three East Katherine communities to assess the fidelity of anaemia best practice guidelines and identify any perinatal or child risk factors associated with the development of childhood anaemia. In Community A, interviews will be conducted with health practitioners and mothers of children who have been involved with the ‘Anaemia Prevention Program’ to determine what ingredients make up the prevention program and if they are replicable in other communities.

An Aboriginal community based researcher will be employed and trained to conduct the research activities. The nationally accredited training program, ‘10513NAT - Certificate II in Community Health Research’ was developed specifically for Aboriginal researchers by the co-investigator Dr Therese Kearns from the partner organization, Menzies School of Health Research.

We will clarify the ‘ingredients’ of why the childhood ’Anaemia Prevention Program’ in Community A is effective for Aboriginal children, families and this community and determine if these ingredients are replicable in other locations. The PHC record review will identify barriers to implementation of best practice guidelines that can be used by Sunrise Health to improve health service delivery. For the first time we will identify what perinatal and infant risk factors are associated with the development in these communities.

This project will benefit Aboriginal children living in remote communities by identifying ingredients of an ‘Anaemia Prevention’ Program that can be integrated into existing guidelines to reduce the prevalence and the immediate and long term consequences anaemia has on growth, development and learning ability.

We will also identify and recognise local champions who have contributed significantly to the health of children in remote communities. These local practitioners can be campaigned as role models for younger generations to highlight how it is possible to make a difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

So far [August 2017], findings from the perinatal risk factors indicate that maternal anaemia in third trimester pregnancy is a greater predictor of anaemia at age six months than preterm or low birth weight. This is a major finding as currently our best practice guidelines only target preterm and low birth weight babies for preventative treatment. Our findings could change public health practice and policy in regards to providing preventative treatment to infants born to mothers who had anaemia in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Project leader

Dr Thérèse Kearns

Administering institution:

Menzies School of Health Research