Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will benefit from the expansion of a University of Queensland-led health project aimed at improving clinical care within primary health care services nationally.
The Improving surveillance infrastructure for Indigenous primary health care project will expand an existing online surveillance network (named ATLAS) focussed on sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs), thanks to federal funding.
STIs and BBVs are endemic in many remote and regional communities in Australia, with STIs identified as the leading incident morbidity for Aboriginal people aged 15–24 years.
UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health director Professor James Ward said he welcomed the funding to deliver the largest connected Indigenous primary care surveillance network in Australia.
“As a Pitjantjatjara and Nukunu man and an infectious diseases epidemiologist, this is an exciting opportunity to significantly develop our work in this sector,” Professor Ward said.
“Our aim is to grow the size of the ATLAS network by including more primary health care services within the network especially Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs).
“In addition, the new funding will enable the ATLAS surveillance system to extend to include other infectious diseases such as vaccine preventable diseases within the scope of the ATLAS network.”
Primary health care services within the ATLAS network have access to regular analysed and aggregated client population data that can be used for reporting as well as driving continuous quality improvement initiatives for their client population.
UQ’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and the new project’s chief investigator Dr Clare Bradley said participants would include surveillance data in their activities to improve clinical service delivery.
“Being able to support clinicians across a wider range of health conditions and improve their patient care is a key goal for the project,” Dr Bradley said.
“For example, influenza and pneumococcal disease will be key focus areas as they are a great burden on health in the community but are readily preventable through vaccination.
“We are also focussed on strengthening Indigenous Data Sovereignty and will offer traineeships in the data sciences so that control of health data remains in Indigenous hands.”
The research team includes Professor James Ward, Dr Clare Bradley and Dr Federica Barzi from UQ’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health; Dr Adrian Bickerstaffe from the University of Melbourne; Dr Odette Pearson from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute; Professor Helen Marshall from the University of Adelaide and Dr Kalinda Griffiths and Professor Rebecca Guy from the University of New South Wales.
“This new grant is an incredible opportunity to strengthen our lengthy collaboration with peak Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations in Brisbane, Cape York, New South Wales, South Australia and the Kimberley, to expand this network and to prioritise Indigenous ways of knowing and doing,” Dr Bradley said.
The ATLAS project is funded by the Australian Government Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).
This project is one of nine UQ projects awarded more than $18 million in the latest 2021 MRFF grants.