Economic determinants in the areas of employment, education and socioeconomic status are important considerations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including those living in rural and remote areas of Australia. The physical environments in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live also have a significant impact on their health and wellbeing, include housing conditions, satisfactory level of basic sanitation, food safety and security, access to clean water and reliable maintenance of homes.
Indigenous Environmental Health Practitioners (IEHPs) work with Aboriginal communities to help address environmental factors and issues that affect them. The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (HealthInfoNet) has an Environmental Health Portal to assist IEHPs in their work by providing information about: key facts; publications; policies and strategies; programs and projects which aim to improve environmental health and living standards; and resources about environmental health promotion and health practices. It also includes details of relevant organisations and workforce information about events, courses, funding and jobs that aim to enhance knowledge in the diverse range of issues that are dealt with by IEHPs.
The Environmental Health Portal includes a dedicated housing and community section, with key resources on home and personal hygiene, home ownership, homelessness, infrastructure and maintenance, safety, overcrowding and power supply. IEHPs work closely with communities providing community education as well as a wide range of other services such as house repairs and maintenance, personal hygiene, food safety, resource and risk management, pest control, disposal of waste and sewerage.
In addition to environmental concerns in communities, food insecurity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can cause hunger and anxiety if there are food shortages in the short term and can cause serious health consequences related to malnutrition in the medium to long term. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to fresh healthy food and ongoing updated information. The Nutrition section on the HealthInfoNet includes information on food security and access in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Media reports during the COVID-19 pandemic have outlined that food supply in remote and rural areas have been affected and along with this, the high prices for staple foods create added distress for disadvantaged communities such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Australian Government has made food security and store pricing a high priority during the COVID-19 government response to ensure supply.
So that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, individuals and communities are kept up to date with information about Government and Aboriginal Peak Body organisations’ responses to issues related to COVID-19, the HealthInfoNet established a COVID-19 Updates and Information Portal to ensure our website users were informed with relevant health promotion and health practice information and resources as they became available. An article on the COVID-19 Updates and Information Portal was featured in the Partyline May issue.
The HealthInfoNet is easy to access on mobile phones, tablets and other devices. Some content is written in ‘plain language’, making it more accessible to a wide diverse range of educational backgrounds and for those who live in rural and remote areas who may speak English as a second or third language.
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet aims to to contribute to ‘closing the gap’ in health between Indigenous people and other Australians by making knowledge of Indigenous health, readily available to the workforce to inform practice, policy, and research by providing timely, accessible and relevant information thus empowering Aboriginal communities to improve health outcomes.