Kelvin Brown

Abstracts

1 Culture and Health Equity: Unpacking the Sociocultural Determinants of Eye Health for Indigenous Australian Diabetics

Authors: Aryati Yashadhana, Ted Fields Jnr., Wendy Fernando, Kelvin Brown, Godfrey Blitner, Francis Hayes, Ruby Stanley, Brian Donnelly, Bridgette Jerrard, Anthea Burnett, Anthony B. Zwi

Abstract:

Indigenous Australians experience some of the worst health outcomes globally, with life expectancy being significantly poorer than those of non-Indigenous Australians. This is largely attributed to preventable diseases such as diabetes (prevalence 39% in Indigenous Australian adults > 55 years), which is attributed to a raised risk of diabetic visual impairment and cataract among Indigenous adults. Our study aims to explore the interface between structural and sociocultural determinants and human agency, in order to understand how they impact (1) accessibility of eye health and chronic disease services and (2) the potential for Indigenous patients to achieve positive clinical eye health outcomes. We used Participatory Action Research methods, and aimed to privilege the voices of Indigenous people through community collaboration. Semi-structured interviews (n=82) and patient focus groups (n=8) were conducted by Indigenous Community-Based Researchers (CBRs) with diabetic Indigenous adults (> 40 years) in four remote communities in Australia. Interviews (n=25) and focus groups (n=4) with primary health care clinicians in each community were also conducted. Data were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed thematically using grounded theory, comparative analysis and Nvivo 10. Preliminary analysis occurred in tandem with data collection to determine theoretical saturation. The principal investigator (AY) led analysis sessions with CBRs, fostering cultural and contextual appropriateness to interpreting responses, knowledge exchange and capacity building. Identified themes were conceptualised into three spheres of influence: structural (health services, government), sociocultural (Indigenous cultural values, distrust of the health system, ongoing effects of colonialism and dispossession) and individual (health beliefs/perceptions, patient phenomenology). Permeating these spheres of influence were three core determinants: economic disadvantage, health literacy/education, and cultural marginalisation. These core determinants affected accessibility of services, and the potential for patients to achieve positive clinical outcomes at every level of care (primary, secondary, tertiary). Our findings highlight the clinical realities of institutionalised and structural inequities, illustrated through the lived experiences of Indigenous patients and primary care clinicians in the four sampled communities. The complex determinants surrounding inequity in health for Indigenous Australians, are entrenched through a longstanding experience of cultural discrimination and ostracism. Secure and long term funding of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services will be valuable, but are insufficient to address issues of inequity. Rather, working collaboratively with communities to build trust, and identify needs and solutions at the grassroots level, while leveraging community voices to drive change at the systemic/policy level are recommended.

Keywords: Sociology, Anthropology, Diabetes, Culture, Public Health, Primary Care, Indigenous, Health Equity, Australia, Social determinants of health, eye health, aboriginal and Torres strait islander

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