Background: Chronic lower limb problems cause substantial morbidity and mortality in Indigenous Australians. Of Australians 25 to 49 years of age with diabetes, Indigenous Australians are 38 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to undergo a major amputation and 27 times more likely than non-IA to undergo a minor amputation. Prevention and early intervention through targeted lower limb health services are key to rectifying the disparity in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report of 2015, prepared by the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee, identified that the nation is in a position to make ‘relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time’ if there is ‘a much greater focus on access to appropriate primary health care services to detect, treat and manage [chronic] conditions’.
The New South Wales (NSW) Central Coast Health District (CCLHD) services a population of 312,184 people. Of this population, 9,020 (2.89%) identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). The CCLHD has embedded data on access of foot health services by Indigenous community members but this data has never been retrieved or explored to ascertain the utility of the existing model for the recruitment and retention of Indigenous community members.
Methods: Data has been retrieved for a 5-year period (2009 to 2013 inclusive) for all occasions of service within the podiatry, diabetes departments and compared.
Thirty-one (1.55%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 1610 (80.5%) non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 359 (17.95%) people of unknown Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status accessed podiatry services over the five year audit period. The frequency of appointments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the podiatry wound services approximately doubled. By 2013, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in the wound service attended on average 3.5 times more appointments per year than a non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in that service. Over the audit period, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who accessed the diabetes service approximately doubled, while there was comparatively small growth (9.50%) in the total number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who accessed podiatry services.