Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need holistic approach to Hepatitis C treatment

26 March 2019

A holistic Hepatitis C treatment program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would improve their healthcare and prognosis, joint research with The University of Queensland has found.

UQ Faculty of Medicine Senior Lecturer Dr Paul Clark said the study was a collaboration with the Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care.

“Improving the healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders results in better treatment and understanding of the disease in Indigenous people,” Dr Clark said.

“Simply having better tablets for Hepatitis C treatment is not always enough to cure people of the infection.

“In many communities, there are multiple challenges to overcome for patients to receive treatment.

“People often have different and demanding priorities, combined with varying degrees of health literacy.

“Having a tailored approach benefits Indigenous communities and results in improved treatment rates,” he said.

Newly diagnosed cases of Hepatitis C infection among Indigenous people in Australia increased by 25 per cent from 2012-2016.

“General Practitioners can play the most effective role in the treatment and management of Hepatitis C.

“GPs are well placed to not only cure the virus but care for the patient.

“Having them engaged in the process of diagnosis, treatment and follow up is essential.

“We need to change people’s thinking – this is about people’s overall health, not just their treatment.”

Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Senior Research Officer Dr Prabha Lakhan said social determinants of health and presence of mental illness impacted people’s ability to access and complete their treatment.

“GPs and primary health care services need to implement a holistic, individualised ‘Hepatitis C model of care’ to increase the numbers of people being treated,” Dr Lakhan said. 

“This would facilitate treatment, give supportive care, alleviate fears and allow more people to receive treatment in our community.”

The research also involved Metro South Health and is published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (DOI: 10.1111/1753-6405.12888)

Media: Dr Paul Clark, paul.j.clark@uq.edu.au; Faculty of Medicine Communications, med.media@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 5133, +61 436 368 746.