Coral Levett writes: Some of you may have heard of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – an innovative web resource that is helping to ‘close the gap’ between the health of indigenous and other Australians by providing the evidence base to inform practice and policy. I learned about this resource at a Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN) Congress.
The HealthInfoNet is a not for profit service funded primarily by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing based at Edith Cowan University in Perth and can be sourced at www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By visiting the HealthInfoNet site, you will find up to date information on health topics as they relate to Indigenous health, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, sexual health, social and emotional wellbeing, and many more. There are also comprehensive sections on the lifestyle factors that confer protection or risk of disease such as nutrition, physical activity, alcohol and other drug use. The health of specific population groups are addressed, for example, in the sections on women, men, children and adolescents.
For those people working directly with Indigenous clients, the Cultural Ways section provides a valuable source of information (www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/cultural-ways-home) and includes details on cultural awareness courses and conferences. The Indigenous Health Workers section provides information about the Indigenous health workforce as well as for the Indigenous health workforce (www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/aihw).
Each health section contains information on:
- policies and strategies – both national and state-based, Indigenous and mainstream, that relate to the health topic
- organisations – topic-specific Australian organisations that are relevant to the health of Indigenous people
- past and current programs and projects – these can inform the workforce of programs or projects that have been run, to generate ideas and learn from other people’s experiences (why re-invent the wheel?)
- resources – health promotion resources of all types are included, from posters and pamphlets to DVDs and online resources; and practice resources for health professionals such as clinical guidelines, toolkits and manuals
- publications – many of the health topics have their own topic-specific searchable database
- workforce – useful information on job opportunities, courses, conferences and funding opportunities (such as scholarships or grant funding).
Bibliographic information is available from the online search facility of the Australian Indigenous HealthBibliography, the most comprehensive bibliography of literature relating specifically to Australian Indigenous health. The searchable bibliography contains over 17,000 publications. There is also a searchable database of health promotion resources that contains over 1200 publications.
Every year the HealthInfoNet produces an Overview of Indigenous health status. The Overview provides information about: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; the context of Indigenous health; various measures of population health status; selected health conditions; and health risk factors. It is published annually and is available in hardcopy or to download free from the HealthInfoNet website. A Summary of Indigenous health status is also provided which includes a plain language summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, with brief information about Indigenous people, health problems and common risk factors.
I believe contributions to the web resource are always welcome and that feedback from users helps not only keep the website relevant and current, but is a valuable source of information on, for example, unpublished programs or newly released resources. Feedback is also encouraged through an online form.
There is ample opportunity for support and information-sharing among practitioners, policy-makers and others working to improve Indigenous health. To support this, the HealthInfoNet have established free online yarning places (electronic networks) that allow people to share information, knowledge and experience across the country. There are now thirteen yarning places relating to specific health topics, with the kidney health and physical activity yarning places coming online in September this year. Users can belong to as many of the yarning places as they choose, and have the capacity to yarn via email, message boards or messenger-style chats.
I urge you to check out this amazing website. The information is relevant to all health professionals, and stands to better inform us all about Indigenous health and workforce issues in order to ‘close the gap’.
Originally published for ANJ – October/November 2011.