Objectives: To develop culturally appropriate and effective strategies to reduce the risk from pandemic influenza (H1N109) in rural and remote Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Methods: Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach that enabled communities and researchers to work together to develop understanding and take action to reduce risk.
Results: The H1N109 pandemic raised deep concerns and serious issues in all of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities involved in this project. The participants expressed distrust and scepticism in relation to current Australian health policies on containment and told the researchers that specific plans for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were needed. Respondents indicated that policies and plans had been developed without respectful engagement with communities. The strong and recurring themes that emerged from the PAR cycles were: the importance of family; ways of life and realities of living in response to influenza; and key messages to government and health services to focus on communication, understanding and respect.
Conclusion: The essential work of reducing risk of pandemic influenza with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is not straightforward, but this project has highlighted a number of useful pathways to continue to journey along with communities. A number of strategies to reduce the spread of pandemic influenza in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were identified. These strategies would make a good starting point for conversations with communities and health services. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities the environment, community structures and traditions vary. Respectful engagement with communities is needed to develop effective policy.
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