A new national TV network will be rolled out specifically for Indigenous patients spending time in waiting rooms before receiving medical treatment.
Aboriginal Health TV will feature culturally-specific programming on screens in about 300 Aboriginal Medical Service facilities around Australia, as well as in mainstream health services with high numbers of Indigenous patrons.
Where appropriate, segments will be produced locally and presented in Indigenous languages, then professionally edited and distributed via an online network.
Messages will be delivered about eye and ear checks, skin conditions, diet, immunisation, sexual health, diabetes and drug and alcohol treatment services. The Australian government has committed $3.4 million to the project over the next three years.
The network has been developed by Tonic Health Media, a communications company started by ABC medical broadcaster Norman Swan and health entrepreneur Matthew Cullen. It will operate as a not-for-profit enterprise in collaboration with the federal, state and territory governments, plus local Aboriginal health service providers.
Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt told NITV News the roll-out was expected to begin in October.
“Norman Swan came to me about 18 months ago, and had a discussion saying that what would be great would be to have info footage running in continuous loops at Aboriginal medical services about a range of health conditions,” he said.
The network has been trialled over the last 12 months at the Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative in Redfern. The targeted audio-visual messaging has been designed to encourage patients to change their behavior and bring up specific issues with medical practitioners.
Mr Wyatt said the program had proven benefits, as the audience had responded favourably to the information.
“[They're] telling the story about a health issue, telling it in a way that our people know what the message is, what it means to them, and how they can take a lead role as a family in protecting their health.
“[The] impact that it has is real, and it provides relevant information and it can be done in language.”
The plan is for an Indigenous Advisory Board to hold community consultations regarding programming and for Aboriginal producers to help provide the content.
Dr Cullen, the chief executive of Tonic Health Media, said this approach was important to improve health outcomes.
“This is a unique opportunity to communicate with Indigenous audiences at the point of care when patients, their families, carers and health service providers are strongly focussed on health and wellbeing,” he said.
The TV network will also use social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to expand its reach.
Christopher Lawrence, a Noongar man and epidemiologist who helped develop the project, said the platform had a lot of potential.
“AHTV will deliver health messages featuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who tell their own stories about health and wellbeing, which in turn encourages positive health outcomes,” he said.