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New tools to support health services deliver better programs

By Patrick Nelson

Dr Nikki Percival … “Urgent need to support our health workers tackle the rising tide of chronic disease” Dr Nikki Percival … “Urgent need to support our health workers tackle the rising tide of chronic disease”

A strong desire to support health workers deliver better programs to prevent chronic disease was the motivation behind a research project undertaken by a Charles Darwin University PhD graduate.

Dr Nikki Percival was a policy officer in the NT Government and a student with CDU’s Menzies School of Health Research when she began exploring ways to assist health services deliver programs in their local communities to help people make healthy lifestyle choices and reduce their risk of chronic disease.

“Chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, are a major contributor to poor health and are the major reason for the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. But these diseases are not inevitable and may be prevented,” Dr Percival said.

“We saw an urgent need to support health care workers who were overwhelmed providing sickness care.

“Senior health service staff had identified that something different needed to be done to try to stop the revolving door of people who were continually unwell in the community.

“My project explored the concept of continuous quality improvement in health promotion. We developed tools to enable health workers collect and review information in order to identify opportunities where they can improve the operations of their health service with the end result of delivering better programs to prevent chronic disease.”

Dr Percival said this was the first time the technique had been tested in health promotion in Indigenous communities.

Health service staff in four Northern Territory Indigenous health services provided vital information about their healthy lifestyle programs and how their health service supported program delivery. This was analysed against recognised "best practice” to identify opportunities for improvement.

"It was a ground-breaking resource for services looking to strengthen health promotion as a strategy for improving the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The tools are available on the website of One21seventy, a not-for-profit organisation to provide ongoing support and training for primary health care services.

Dr Percival recieved her PhD at a CDU end-of-year graduation ceremony last month.