Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer in Australia and disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with these populations more likely than the non-Indigenous population to have hepatitis C, and by extension, have poorer health outcomes related to hepatitis C and liver health. Hepatitis C is now curable, however there are many challenges in providing hepatitis C care, including raising awareness of hepatitis C and its cure, and working with patients and clients to support adherence.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners play a vital role in the provision of viral hepatitis services to Aboriginal communities, acting as a connection between community and health services and embedding cultural safety in models of service delivery to improve community engagement and the provision of care. They can support screening, linkage to care, referral, follow-up, treatment, and management of hepatitis C. For this reason, ASHM received funding to develop and deliver an education program in collaboration with EC Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. The program and evaluation framework were co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals with experience in monitoring and evaluation.
Feedback from survey respondents and post-course yarning circle participants outlined that the course was culturally safe and that participants felt encouraged to actively participate in the course. course was well presented and culturally safe. They indicated that learnings from the course could be brought back to their organisations and communities, and were more confident to engage clients about hepatitis C, provide peer learning within their organisations, and empowered to confront issues pertaining to stigma and discrimination related to hepatitis C and intravenous drug use (IDU) in their communities. Participants also had feedback related to preferred approaches and additional content which could be included, which will be considered when ASHM undertakes the next review of this program.
Over 90% of respondents indicated that they felt more confident to:
- identify which clients may need to be tested for hepatitis C
- to start a conversation with clients about the benefits of hepatitis C treatment in a way that is respectful and safe, and
- to help clients if they have any problems starting or continuing hepatitis C treatment.=
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