Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (respectfully hereafter First Nations) peoples of Australia have experienced poorer health outcomes than the rest of the Australian population during recent pandemics. In 2009, during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, diagnosis rates, hospitalisations and intensive care unit admissions occurred at five, eight and three times, respectively, the rates recorded among non-Indigenous people.
The vulnerability of First Nations peoples to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is well understood by community leaders and non-Aboriginal policy makers and clinicians alike. The risks for First Nations peoples from COVID-19 taking hold are immense — the oldest continuous culture on the planet is at risk. This is because of all of the following interrelated factors: an already high burden of chronic diseases; longstanding inequity related to service provision and access to health care, especially because 20% of First Nations peoples live in remote and very remote areas; and pervasive social and economic disadvantage in areas such as housing, education and employment.
Moreover, many of the interventions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 are counter cultural or difficult to implement because of crowded housing and extended family groups living together. This means interruption of cultural life in order to be consistent with new social isolation concepts.
Using lessons learnt from the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, First Nations clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers are strategically leading the way in public health planning, response and management for COVID-19 alongside non-Indigenous dedicated allies.
Read the full article at the Medical Journal of Australia.