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ECU working to improve healthcare outcomes for Indigenous Australians

Friday, 20 May 2011


With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living, on average, 17 years fewer than other Australians, it has never been more important to maximise the effectiveness of healthcare for Indigenous Australians.

The ability of health professionals to work effectively with Indigenous people is crucial, and a team led by Edith Cowan University's (ECU's) Professor Cobie Rudd has been awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Grant to help improve understanding and empathy between healthcare professionals and Indigenous people.

This project aims to influence the underlying attitudes of health professionals through a story-based approach which will help students to ‘walk in the shoes' of others.

Entitled ‘Creating cultural empathy and challenging attitudes through Indigenous narratives', the $220,000 project will help to address a federal priority of ‘closing the gap' between the health outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The project will collect narratives about Indigenous people's experience of health services, and engage students in these stories to develop empathy through a genuine understanding of their issues and experiences.

The project team will work with a network of educators from across Australia to embed these stories and their lessons into the education of healthcare professionals.

Project-lead Professor Cobie Rudd, Associate Dean of Health at ECU, said that one of the first steps in addressing the health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is to address the attitudes of health professionals.

"This begins with empathy; feeling another's feelings, looking into their eyes and walking in their shoes," she said.

"The narratives will be used in simulated learning environments as we believe that immersing students in these real-life situations will help build confidence, competence and culturally-safe practices."

"We have found this method to be particularly successful at ECU's Health Simulation Centre and are keen to expand its potential uses".

The project team also includes representatives from the University of Western Australia, the Health Consumers' Council, University of Notre Dame, the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, and Curtin University.

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Media contact:

Corporate Communications
(08) 6304 2131
0402 016 344
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