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08 October 2019

An innovative JCU co-led project is forging a dynamic partnership between university researchers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary healthcare services in Northern Australia striving to enhance their quality of care.

The three-year Leveraging Effective Ambulatory Practices (LEAP) project, launched last year by JCU and the University of Sydney, is collaborating with eight Indigenous primary care services, including three in Queensland, to help prioritise and address key health improvement challenges in each community.

“We are seeking to understand what these services need to succeed,” said project co-manager and JCU Senior Research Fellow, Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren, a public health researcher.

“We need to know the reality of providing a health service in their communities, in terms of the challenges and the constraints that they work within, in order to support action to address these obstacles.

“The project is very much a two-way learning process, where the health services are working alongside us, helping to design and set the agenda.”

Two-way learning and collaboration underpin the LEAP learning community, which brings together the eight healthcare services, primary health care stakeholders and researchers to support service-led solutions.

The LEAP learning community first met in Cairns last August to launch the project and jointly develop data collection tools. One Indigenous and non-Indigenous member of the research team subsequently visited each service, using these tools to conduct interviews with health service providers, community members and other stakeholders, as well as collect continuous quality improvement (CQI) audit data from the services.

“In those conversations, quality issues and potential actions for positive change were discussed,” Dr Redman-MacLaren said.

The results of the first visit are now being relayed to the healthcare services, prior to another face-to-face meeting in Darwin at the end of July. At this meeting, each service will nominate two or three priority focus areas for the following 12 months, and start developing plans to enhance service delivery in those areas.

In between the face-to-face meetings, the learning community comes together for monthly video conferences to share information and resources to support services with their improvement plans. Community collaboration is a top priority.

“This may strengthen healthcare provision in two ways,” Dr Redman-MacLaren said. “Firstly, elements involved in two-way sharing, trusting relationships, safe spaces, and learning from each other, might assist in forming genuine partnerships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous health professionals and their patients.”

“Secondly, if community members participate openly, sharing their community, cultural, and historical background, then all health system personnel are able to learn firsthand about factors affecting the community’s health, including important social and cultural determinants, and modify existing programs or even enable new ones.”

“This project is all about community-led action; embedding health programs and services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”

The LEAP project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, under the Centre for Research Excellence in Integrated Quality Improvement.

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