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Townsville to trial new international Indigenous health initiative

8 November 2017

Townsville will lead the country in delivering an internationally acclaimed health and wellbeing initiative after the board of the local Aboriginal medical service voted last night to join the First Thousand Days Australia (FTDA) initiative as lead agency.

Chair of the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service, Morris Cloudy, said TAIHS was excited about the opportunities the new approach would offer.

"TAIHS has a successful record of providing quality health care and social services to the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait community but there remain many obstacles to ensuring our kids get the best possible opportunities in life," he said. "We believe that the First Thousand Days Australia model will assist in us in addressing these gaps."

Morris Cloudy said the TAIHS board was also excited about the FTDA emphasis on strengths rather than deficits in the community and its strong views on Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander culture being a key component of health and healing.

The first 1,000 days of life - the time spanning roughly between conception and one’s second birthday - is a unique period of opportunity when the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.

In Australia this international nutrition movement has been broadened out, by a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health researchers and practitioners, from the original nutrition-focused international initiative to include child protection, early life literacy, the role and contribution of men and the range of other issues which impact on Indigenous parents and infants in Australia.

Professor Kerry Arabena, Chair of Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne, who heads up the First Thousand Days Australia initiative says FTDA is unique as an Indigenous designed and managed intervention and will improve coordination between services and organisations catering to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and maternal health.

"FTDA will also ensure that the so-called social determinants of health, including housing, education, employment and exposure to racism and discrimination, are addressed," said Professor Arabena. "As long as so many of our people suffer from poor housing, low employment and educational levels they will continue to experience poor health."

Professor Arabena said the next step would be to employ a Townsville FTDA Implementation manager to work with TAIHS to identify and rectify obstacles to Indigenous kids getting the best possible opportunities in life.

"The decision of the TAIHS Board will set in train great opportunities for the Townsville community to become national leaders in child and maternal and other health advances in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

"The Council of Australian Governments has noted the lack of satisfactory progress in closing the gap, particularly in early childhood health and development; I believe that FTDA, if properly supported by funding and better policies, will put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back in charge and provide our families with the real circumstantial changes, often missing under current arrangements and critical to real successful change," said Professor Arabena.

Professor Arabena and Ms. Heather Lee, midwife and manager of TAIHS’ Child and Maternal Health services will be available for interview and photo opportunities tomorrow at TAIHS Garbutt Clinic, 57 – 59 Gorden St, between 11 am and 12.30 pm.

For more information and to arrange an interview contact:
Al Harris MagpieMedia – 0409658177

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