An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cardiac Rehabilitation program delivered in a non-Indigenous health service (Yeddung Gauar): a mixed methods feasibility study

Nicole Freene, Roslyn Brown, Paul Collis, Chris Bourke, Katharine Silk, Alicia Jackson, Rachel Davey, Holly L. Northam

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Background: There is limited evidence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attending cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs despite high levels of heart disease. One key enabler for CR attendance is a culturally safe program. This study evaluates improving access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to attend a CR program in a non-Indigenous health service, alongside improving health workforce cultural safety. Methods: An 18-week mixed-methods feasibility study was conducted, with weekly flexible CR sessions delivered by a multidisciplinary team and an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Worker (AHW) at a university health centre. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who were at risk of, or had experienced, a cardiac event were recruited. Data was collected from participants at baseline, and at every sixth-session attended, including measures of disease risk, quality-of-life, exercise capacity and anxiety and depression. Cultural awareness training was provided for health professionals before the program commenced. Assessment of health professionals’ cultural awareness pre- and post-program was evaluated using a questionnaire (n = 18). Qualitative data from participants (n = 3), the AHW, health professionals (n = 4) and referrers (n = 4) was collected at the end of the program using yarning methodology and analysed thematically using Charmaz’s constant comparative approach. Results: Eight referrals were received for the CR program and four Aboriginal women attended the program, aged from 24 to 68 years. Adherence to the weekly sessions ranged from 65 to 100%. At the program’s conclusion, there was a significant change in health professionals’ perception of social policies implemented to ‘improve’ Aboriginal people, and self-reported changes in health professionals’ behaviours and skills. Themes were identified for recruitment, participants, health professionals and program delivery, with cultural safety enveloping all areas. Trust was a major theme for recruitment and adherence of participants. The AHW was a key enabler of cultural authenticity, and the flexibility of the program contributed greatly to participant perceptions of cultural safety. Barriers for attendance were not unique to this population. Conclusion: The flexible CR program in a non-Indigenous service provided a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal women but referrals were low. Importantly, the combination of cultural awareness training and participation in the program delivery improved health professionals’ confidence in working with Aboriginal people. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) 12618000581268,, registered 16 April 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Article number222
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBMC Cardiovascular Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2021


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