Ms Bethany Oi-Ching Yeung1, Dr Kim Bulkeley1, Professor Michelle Lincoln1
1The University Of Sydney, Lidcombe, Australia
Culturally responsive health services are imperative to closing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal people in rural and remote communities. Access to allied health services is impeded by recruitment and retention difficulties, inaccessible service delivery models, cross-cultural issues and distance. The contribution of Aboriginal allied health assistants (AAHA) to addressing the health needs of individuals within their communities is promising, however, little is known about the nature and nuances of this emerging role. This study captured the perceptions, experiences and activities of AAHAs. The Participation in Everyday Life (PIEL) survey application, based on a modified experience sampling approach was used to generate a tailored survey including quantitative and qualitative questions to capture experiences within their everyday context. The survey will be completed by participants on an iPad at the end of each working day, over two weeks on three occasions. Early findings from the first round of quantitative data indicated participants engaged in regular and direct work with individual clients and groups, and provided services primarily within their local community. Two themes emerged from the first round of qualitative responses: 1) “being an Aboriginal person from the community”; and 2) being locally based. This mixed methods study highlighted the value of the AAHA role, which can be used to inform implementation more broadly in a rural and remote context. Although yet to be fully realised, the AAHA role has potential to improve the cultural responsivity of, and access to allied health services in rural and remote communities.
Dr Kim Bulkeley is an occupational therapist with over 30 years experience working in community, management, policy and research settings. Her work with the Wobbly Hub rural research team in recent years has focused on access to allied health services in rural and remote communities in western NSW. Kim’s research is grounded in partnerships that generate relevant and informed insights into the development of responsive service delivery approaches.