Context: Aboriginal children are at a higher risk of many vaccine preventable diseases than non- Aboriginal children and timeliness of vaccination has been poorer in Aboriginal children. In July 2012, the NSW Ministry of Health provided funding for a three-year pilot project to employ Aboriginal Immunisation Healthcare Workers (AIHCWs) in Local Health Districts, with the aim of improving immunisation coverage and timeliness in Aboriginal children. In 2015 the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance undertook an evaluation of the pilot program.
Process: Aboriginal staff from NCIRS conducted individual face-to-face interviews with 15 AIHCW staff. All 12 Public Health Unit (PHU) directors, 12 Immunisation Coordinators and two key HPNSW staff were interviewed by phone from February to April 2015.
Analysis: Interviews included questions on support and training of AIHCWs, activities conducted by AIHCWs, focus of activities on infants, children, adolescents and adults, respectively, and contributors and obstacles to achieving the program objectives. Interview responses were summarised under major themes.
Outcomes: The majority of AIHCWs reported receiving good support in their roles from other PHU staff. The priority for most PHUs was the follow-up of infants less than 12 months of age who were due or overdue for vaccination. AIHCWs considered that direct contact with parents was the most effective approach to improve immunisation uptake.
The project was seen as very successful by most PHUs. Recommended improvements included sharing locally developed resources across PHUs, more focus on improving Aboriginal identification, standardised training for AIHCWs and strengthening cultural support for AIHCWs in their roles.