Improving end-of-life health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

  • Older woman with younger female relative
  • Two young girls with older female and male.

The Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA) is a national palliative care education and training program funded by the Australian Government Department of Health to enhance quality of service delivery and support for people who are passing on, as well as their families and carers.

PEPA offers a range of free professional development opportunities for health care providers to develop and enhance existing knowledge and skills as well as building confidence and networks in palliative care. PEPA specifically addresses the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families by empowering health staff with the skill, knowledge and confidence to care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a holistic and culturally sensitive manner.

Although comprehensive data on rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accessing palliative care services are not available in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are underrepresented in the palliative care patient population. This suggests that these essential services are not available, accessed or appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the PEPA team is working to help address this inequity.

PEPA has facilitated 236 Aboriginal Placements to enhance existing knowledge and skills as well as building confidence and networks in providing palliative care. This equates to 10 per cent of the total placements offered between 2011 and 2017.

Every State and Territory has a dedicated Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander staff member (or a link with relevant organisations) focused on working in a partnership model with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to demonstrate the value of PEPA, whist respecting the dynamic and diverse cultures across and within each jurisdiction.

With the cultural, spiritual, and religious diversity that underpins Australia, PEPA has been designed to ensure our training is respectful, culturally appropriate and meets the specific needs of each individual receiving care.

In the Northern Territory PEPA NT supported Groote Eylandt Health staff and Palliative Care Australia in the development of an Advance Personal Plan documentary targeted at Aboriginal people. This will be a valuable resource to assist with palliative care and advanced personal planning engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally.

PEPA SA and PEPA WA teams conducted road trips in South Australia and Western Australia early this year to implement a program of respectful engagement with Aboriginal Medical Services and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services. The road trips were successful with many new relationships formed and existing relationships strengthened.

PEPA ACT and Winnunga Aboriginal Health Service together developed a model of enhancing the capacity of Aboriginal Health Workers to deliver a palliative approach to caring for their people with a life limiting illness. Called the Winnunga Care & Support Clinic, this monthly clinic is attended by both Winnunga, ACT PEPA Manager and ACT Specialist Palliative Care staff. The model of the Winnunga Care and Support Clinic has and will continue to enhance the capacity of Aboriginal health workers to deliver palliative care for their people and community by honouring people’s wishes in life and in death.

There programs are helping ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are receiving the best quality of care and support at the end of life.

PEPA offers free workshops and clinical placements throughout Australia. As part of the placements program, organisations will be reimbursed for staff absences and program attendees will be reimbursed if they are required to travel. To find out more contact your local PEPA staff (details available at https://pepaeducation.com/about-pepa/our-team/)

 

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