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Supporting primary health care in remote NT communities’

9 December 2022
How our First Nations people are using technology to support their health and wellbeing
A new project supporting comprehensive primary health care in remote communities in the Northern Territory has just been announced as part of the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre program of works.

The project – a partnership between the University of Sydney, the Menzies School of Health Research (Alice Springs), NT Health, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, Health Direct Australia, and NT Primary Health Network (PHN) – focuses on working closely with First Nations communities in the Northern Territory, as well as Indigenous providers and consumers to develop community-centred care models.

“While telehealth has been widely used in remote communities, there is a significant gap in our understanding of how indigenous Australians want to use technology to support their health and wellness,” said Professor Tim Shaw, project lead, and Charles Perkins Centre member. 

This is a great team and continues the Charles Perkins Centre’s collaborative approach to all its work, particularly when working with First Nations communities. Embedding Indigenous researchers in the team will help to ensure that this community-led model has impact
Professor Jakelin Troy

“Building on what we know, the project will test and evaluate how the configuration and rollout of digital tools such as telehealth, remote monitoring and data access can be optimised to support access to comprehensive primary health care,” he said.

Rather than taking an externally-driven technology focus, the project will purposefully partner with providers and indigenous consumers to develop and test virtual community-centred care models.

“The project will work closely with a number of sites in the NT and include community-embedded Indigenous researchers,” said Professor Shaw, whose project team comprises Charles Perkins Centre collaborators Associate Professor Sarah Norris and Ms Nicki Newton, as well as Professor Meredith Makeham and Dr Emily Saurman from the Faculty of Medicine and Health. 

Professor Jakelin Troy, Charles Perkins Centre’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theme Leader says that privileging First Nations voices is imperative to the success of non-traditional health programs in assessing and addressing Indigenous health.

“Ideas of co-production and co-design are embedded in our First Nations cultures so this project with its focus on working closely with and in communities – listening, learning and understanding – is the only way that projects like this can be meaningful.

“This is a great team and continues the Charles Perkins Centre’s collaborative approach to all its work, particularly when working with First Nations communities. Embedding Indigenous researchers in the team will help to ensure that this community-led model has impact,” said Professor Troy.

The Digital Health Cooperative Resaerch Centre was one of only four Cooperative Research Centres funded by the Australian government in 2018 and aims to improve the health of Australians and advance the economy in a first-of-its-kind digital health partnership. It operates through collaborative research and development programs involving Australian and international industry and academic partners.