Accessibility of primary, specialist, and allied health services for Aboriginal people living in rural and remote communities: Protocol for a mixed-methods study

Rona Macniven, Kate Hunter, Michelle Lincoln, Ciaran O’Brien, Thomas Lee Jeffries, Gregory Shein, Alexander Saxby, Donna Taylor, Tim Agius, Heather Finlayson, Robyn Martin, Kelvin Kong, Davida Nolan-Isles, Susannah Tobin, Kylie Gwynne

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Background: Primary, specialist, and allied health services can assist in providing equitable access in rural and remote areas, where higher proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Aboriginal Australians) reside, to overcome the high rates of chronic diseases experienced by this population group. Little is currently known about the location and frequency of services and the extent to which providers believe delivery is occurring in a sustained and coordinated manner. Objective: The objective of this study will be to determine the availability, accessibility, and level of coordination of a range of community-based health care services to Aboriginal people and identify potential barriers in accessing health care services from the perspectives of the health service providers. Methods: This mixed-methods study will take place in 3 deidentified communities in New South Wales selected for their high population of Aboriginal people and geographical representation of location type (coastal, rural, and border). The study is designed and will be conducted in collaboration with the communities, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs), and other local health services. Data collection will involve face-to-face and telephone interviews with participants who are health and community professionals and stakeholders. Participants will be recruited through snowball sampling and will answer structured, quantitative questions about the availability and accessibility of primary health care, specialist medical and allied health services and qualitative questions about accessing services. Quantitative data analysis will determine the frequency and accessibility of specific services across each community. Thematic and content analysis will identify issues relating to availability, accessibility, and coordination arising from the qualitative data. We will then combine the quantitative and qualitative data using a health ecosystems approach. Results: We identified 28 stakeholder participants across the ACCHSs for recruitment through snowball sampling (coastal, n=4; rural, n=12; and border, n=12) for data collection. The project was funded in 2017, and enrolment was completed in 2017. Data analysis is currently under way, and the first results are expected to be submitted for publication in 2019. Conclusions: The study will give an indication of the scope and level of coordination of primary, specialist, and allied health services in rural communities with high Aboriginal populations from the perspectives of service providers from those communities. Identification of factors affecting the availability, accessibility, and coordination of services can assist ways of developing and implementing culturally sensitive service delivery. These findings could inform recommendations for the provision of health services for Aboriginal people in rural and remote settings. The study will also contribute to the broader literature of rural and remote health service provision.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11471
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


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