Improving health outcomes for Indigenous women

Improving health outcomes for Indigenous women

Mater Research, Principal Research Fellow Indigenous Health Associate Professor Kym Rae discusses child birth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and the work being done to improve health outcomes for mothers in these communities.
 
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers are at increased likelihood of suffering complications of pregnancy, including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. They also have higher rates of babies being born early or low-birth weight,” Kym said.
 
“Additionally, there are many cultural sensitivities around birthing that health care providers need to be mindful of including the importance of birthing on country as the spirits of their ancestors are strongest and help connect their child to the ancestors and to country.
 
“Equally it is very important to women to have family around them during birthing, as the cultural importance of this to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community cannot be overstated.”
 
Kym said the Mater Mothers’ Hospital has started programs in collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities designed to improve health outcomes for mothers and their babies.
 
“Mater in partnership with the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane run the Birthing in our Community—a health care program which aims to ‘close the gap’ in maternal and infant health outcomes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community,” Kym said.
 
“The program was developed in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and offers specialist services, group antenatal care and direct access to health care workers designed to address cultural needs and provide Indigenous mums with more equitable health services.
 
“Mothers are offered care in a culturally rich and vibrant location away from the hospital, with transport, and access to their own midwife and family support worker from pregnancy through to birth. Birthing in our Community have significantly improved health wellbeing and perinatal outcomes for women and children, including improving birthweight and preterm deliveries.”
 
Since it began in 2013 the program has almost halved the risk of pre-term births for participants, with results published in the Lancet’s eClinical Medical Journal highlighting significantly improved results for women having a baby through the program.
 
From the mothers who have participated clinicians have seen more children born at a healthy birth weight, a reduction in smoking during pregnancy, women coming to all their pre and post antenatal care and fulfilling all their vaccinations.
 
Samantha Ringuet (pictured) has had both her children Isabella (newborn) and Bryden (2 years) through the Birthing in our Community program.
 
“The Birthing in our Community program was amazing, the people running the program were excellent and so supportive of my birthing journey. It was so important to me to have the same midwife through the whole experience,” she said.
 
“I was also given a support worker for my pregnancy as well, they helped plan appointments, educate me on everything I needed to know and connected me with other health care services if I needed them.
 
“I think there needs to be more support services for the Indigenous community and it is very important to build relationships and trust between the carers and their patients. It makes a huge difference and I felt much safer and more relaxed.”
 
Kym said building trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will greatly increase the potential to positive health outcomes through collaboration and shared opportunities.
 
“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are nervous about attending health care, so that pregnancy is an ideal time to spend time building a relationship with the woman. By building a strong relationship with this woman, she will be more likely to come and see you again and encourage other friends and family to the same,” Kym said.

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