Working together to close the stroke gap

STROKE Foundation used NAIDOC Week to highlight the urgent need to close the stroke gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, in an effort to improve health outcomes for First Nations communities.

Compared to non-Indigenous Australians, First Nations peoples are between two and three times more likely to experience a stroke. Strokes occur on average 17 years earlier, hospitalisation rates are 1.7 times higher and death rates are 1.5 times higher in Indigenous Australians.

Stroke Foundation chief executive, Dr Lisa Murphy, said listening to gain understanding, respecting the rich and diverse culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and building on the enormous strengths of connection to Country, Culture and Community was key to enabling self-determination and addressing the community’s needs.

“For First Nations peoples, strokes occur earlier in life, more often, and result in worse outcomes,” she said.

“This is the Stroke Gap between First Nations peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. Stroke Foundation is working hard to close this gap through our prevention, treatment, recovery, and research programs.

“This year’s (NAIDOC) theme, ‘For Our Elders’ celebrates the important role Elders have played and continue to play.”

Dr Murphy said NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to recognise the significant contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have made, to celebrate their strengths, particularly in the public health field, and is a time to reflect on how we can help improve health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

“We believe everyone deserves the chance to lead a healthy life and have access to best practice healthcare.” she said.

“At Stroke Foundation, we have much to learn but we are committed to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Stroke Foundation’s commitment to closing the Stroke Gap is supported by its recently implemented Reconciliation Action Plan, which will ensure the voice of Indigenous Australians are meaningfully represented in all aspects of the foundation’s work, allowing the specific stroke health concerns of the Indigenous community to be identified and addressed.

This approach is cemented by the Foundation’s support of the Voice to Parliament and the ‘Next Steps Stroke Yarning’ Project.

This project has employed a skilled First Nations professional to use best-practice, culturally appropriate engagement techniques, known as Yarning, to identify the next steps for Stroke Foundation and codevelop solutions with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Northern Territory and Hunter-New England regions of New South Wales.

“We need to better understand the needs of First Nations communities in preventing, treating and beating stroke, to co-design the next approaches to meet these needs, and support self-determination with these communities,” Dr Murphy said.