A pilot program to improve health outcomes for First Nations peoples is being launched in the New England region with $70,000 of seed funding from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

The HealthWISE project will see Aboriginal health workers integrated into pharmacies in Tamworth and Gunnedah with the aim of reducing cultural barriers to health literacy and healthcare and supporting people to understand and use medication effectively. With Australian government data highlighting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are five times more likely to die from chronic disease before the age of 75 than other Australians and with strengthening cultural safety in health care settings a key action in the 2024 Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, the HealthWISE program is a community led, practical solution with potential to immediately make a difference.

Aboriginal health worker Glenn Allan said they have the skills and understanding to have discussions with customers grappling with complicated prescriptions, identifying visual cues and cheaper generic brands. He added that Aboriginal people face the same daily health challenges as everyone else including risks of lung disease, heart problems and diabetes.

“Why there’s more Aboriginal health workers these days is because we look at our parents, we look at generations gone and think, ‘well, we need to do something as Aboriginal people to help our future people and to help the older generation because they did the work, they looked after us,” Mr Allan said.

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