• A community-led program has seen dramatic improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
More than 500 mums have taken part in the program since 2013 with results that buck national trends.
Ella Archibald-Binge

The Point
13 Feb 2019 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2019 - 2:29 PM

A maternal health program in Brisbane claims to have found a winning formula to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers deliver full-term babies. 

Indigenous women are almost twice as likely to give birth prematurely - which can lead to further complications - but the initiative has brought pre-term rates roughly into line with the general population.

“It has been profound,” said Yvette Roe, a senior research fellow from the University of Queensland’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.

"We haven’t seen this in Australia before, so we’re really excited to [not only] continue the program but also start it up in other places."

The Birthing in Our Community program is a partnership between the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane and Mater Hospital.

The Aboriginal-led initiative pairs expectant mothers with a midwife for all antenatal appointments, home visits and childbirth.

Mums-to-be are also given access to a psychologist, social worker and an Indigenous support worker to attend appointments, provide advocacy and explain any complex medical jargon if needed. 

"We have seen that mothers in our model have got a higher level of satisfaction. There’s a higher level of presenting early to first antenatal care, and also getting a suite of antenatal care that they will get from the midwives and the family support workers," Dr Roe said.

'Nationally the data may not always demonstrate change, but locally we can see some significant improvement.'

IUIH CEO Adrian Carson said he hoped the model would encourage the federal government to put Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands.

"The solutions that we’re actually coming up with to improve health outcomes within our communities are actually solutions that could benefit the whole country," Mr Carson told NITV News.

"So this whole idea that somehow our communities can’t be trusted or that we don’t have capacity to deliver is a myth.

"I think the danger is that the country gets so used to talking about how things can’t change or how the gap’s never going to be closed, when the reality is nationally the data may not always demonstrate change, but locally we can see some significant improvements - particularly being led out by community-controlled organisations."

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