The Fred Hollows Foundation’s is committed to advocating for sustained improvements in environmental health that lead to, the elimination of trachoma and the achievement of better health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Despite the overall positive progress to date, concerted effort is required to address the ‘F’ and ‘E’ components of the SAFE strategy with evidence showing that to eliminate trachoma from Australia by 2020, the whole of the SAFE strategy must be implemented. The ‘F’ and the ‘E’, components of the strategy provide the greatest ongoing challenge because, to make sustained improvement in these area’s greater inter-sectoral cooperation; capacity and systems building, investment in infrastructure and/or service and health promotion approaches that lead to appropriate behaviour change are required.
In 2015, The Fred Hollows Foundation partnered with the Environmental Health Branch of the NT Department of Health (EHB NT) to trial the Healthy Community Assessment Tool (HCAT) in seven remote Aboriginal communities across the NT with the aim of sustainably embedding the use of the tool within the health system.
The trial was an important step in embedding the tool in the health systems and ensure that action results in environmental health improvements on the ground. The trial found that communities had good water supplies and sewage systems, solid waste disposal, animal management and food safety. However housing and community vibrancy and pride varied across communities.
The use of the tool was found to be an important step to applying a CQI approach as it supports and enables the collection of good quality information to inform goal setting and the development of strategies to achieve improvements in identified areas whilst using a participatory and consumer focused approach.
Most importantly, the tool has the potential to be used and further refined to support other programs, policy and research areas where the availability of quality, standardised data on the environmental health status of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is required to improve underlying infrastructure, behavioural and policy factors impacting on health.