Poster Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Cultural safety, effective communication and improved health outcomes: embedding effective practice and community led research (#217)

Robyn Williams 1 , Deb Butler 2
  1. Charles Darwin University, Casuarina, NT, Australia
  2. Office of Aboriginal Health Policy and Engagement, NT Department of Health, Darwin, NT, Australia

There is common agreement amongst many health practitioners, educators and researchers that cultural safety is a useful and indeed essential concept for health professionals to be effective in Indigenous health settings. In this paper, the authors have explored some of the challenges of associated concepts including effective communication, cultural security and community led research. Some of the broader questions are framed around learning and working in partnership and negotiating culturally safe pathways to improving health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

Cultural safety is fundamental to closing the gap in health outcomes for Indigenous peoples and communities. But what does cultural safety look like and where do health services get started to ensure its practices and research are responsive to Indigenous peoples? 

The NT Department of Health (NT DoH) has recently developed its Aboriginal Cultural Security Framework to ensure the provision of health services sensitively recognise and support Aboriginal cultural rights, views and values. The Framework determines a minimum level of activity across six broad domains to enable cultural security. These domains provide a structured approach to deliver action on cultural security at all levels across NT Health.

Progressing this work has identified several key points including:

  • Mechanisms need to be in place to identify and monitor how health services act and modify services
  • Cultural safety training must start with self-reflection and be fostered in an environment that all people feel safe to draw strength from their identity, culture and community and recognise and value differences and strengths
  • Efforts to improve health services for Indigenous peoples and communities requires leadership and whole-of-organisation approaches to ensure cultural security is embedded across all parts and levels of health business.

The authors have been part of a number of joint projects between the NT DoH and Charles Darwin University (CDU), the most recent being the development and trialling of a workshop ‘Effective Communication–improving health literacy and cultural safety in health care’. This paper will address lessons learned from these projects and ways forward.