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Guest editorial: Raising the bar on Indigenous quality of care at the Lowitja Institute

PHCRIS Infonet, Volume 15, Issue 6, August 2011, ISBN 1832 620X
Professor Ian Anderson, Director of Research and Innovation, The Lowitja Institute

Professor Ian AndersonThe Lowitja InstituteImproving the standard of primary health care for First Australians is a key priority at the Lowitja Institute, Australia's National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. Community controlled health organisations are among our core research partners, and one of our three research program areas - Healthy Start, Healthy Life (Program 1) - has a particular focus on supporting efforts to lift the performance of community controlled health care providers. Success in this area will have a major beneficial impact on current efforts to close the gap in Indigenous health outcomes.

Two relevant and inter-related projects are already underway:

  • a workforce development package auspiced through the One21seventy National Centre for Quality Improvement in Indigenous Primary Health Care to support the delivery of high-quality care through the community controlled sector
  • support for the ABCD National Research Partnership, a NHMRC-funded initiative which works alongside One21seventy to undertake in-depth research on the local and regional factors that influence quality of care.

Brisbane-based One21seventy <> was established in 2009 to continue and expand on the work of the long-running Audit and Best Practice for Chronic Disease (ABCD) project originally supported by our predecessor organisation, the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health. There are now 162 health centres around Australia registered to use One21seventy's continuous quality improvement process, which includes audit tools and other quality improvement facilitation services. With the support of the Lowitja Institute, One21seventy is also in the midst of delivering training to staff in participating health centres to enable them to use One21seventy products and services at the highest level. Some 235 primary health care staff received training during 2010 and courses are ongoing.

Meanwhile, the ABCD National Partnership is examining variations in quality of care through extensive analysis of qualitative and quantitative data collected by One21seventy-registered health services. In each participating State and Territory the project brings together the peak Aboriginal community controlled health service body, the relevant health department and a lead research institution to provide support for the development of research capacity in community health services. So far 12 health services have joined up with pending membership from many more across Australia.

The Lowitja Institute also plays a general brokerage role for mainstream health organisations wishing to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care providers, either in research or in the delivery of services. With our extensive networks throughout the health and research sectors and a 14-year record of research excellence, there is no other organisation better placed to do this vital work.

For more information see: <>

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