Medibank partnership supporting remote Indigenous communities

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Medibank says a partnership with the Menzies School of Health Research has enabled the ongoing delivery of community health training in remote Indigenous communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Menzies’s Certificate II in Community Health Research is designed to enable Indigenous people to help deliver health promotion and research in their own communities. It also provides new employment opportunities and greater health literacy.

However, the restrictions imposed as part of the response to the pandemic impacted the face-to-face and personalised delivery of health care.

Travel to remote communities was restricted to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This meant access to some face-to-face education and training opportunities was limited. Medibank supported Menzies with funding to digitise the course and make it available online for remote communities.

Menzies’ Associate Dean of teaching and learning, Dr Sharon Chirgwin, said the course is an important step to provide those living in remote communities with the skills and knowledge required to participate in research that impacted on their communities.

“Menzies is committed to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and our vision is that Indigenous Australians set the priorities and direction of health research in their communities and at a national level,” said Dr Chirgwin.

“The Certificate II in Community Health Research is one step in enabling this to occur by training those who work in remote communities to conduct research in ethically and culturally responsible way.

“It also enables Menzies to learn from those in communities about how they see health and health issues and to utilise a ‘both-ways’ approach to addressing health issues.

“Medibank’s support to make the course digital has made a big difference. Most of our trainees in this course are Indigenous women living in community, but we have seen a greater variety of ages enrolling and more men taking part as a result of the course being available online.”

The course covers health literacy and promotion, research methods, the ethics of consent and health data, communicating health messages in a culturally appropriate way and presentation skills.

Medibank’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan said the support from the company's Better Health Foundation recognised the importance of continuing to offer this training despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“We saw how important it was for Menzies to be able to offer this course online, and maintain the unique personalisation for each student,” said Dr Swan.

“To hear how passionate the 2020 students are about the lived health experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is recognition of the importance of shifting traditional power structures in health to benefit Indigenous communities.”