The provision of a well trained and culturally capable maternal and child health workforce is pivotal.
Indigenous communities throughout Australia are set to reap far-reaching benefits from a key initiative involving Griffith University and Townsville District Health Service.
One fifth of students starting Griffith's Bachelor of Midwifery program in 2011 are from indigenous backgrounds.
This group of 19 students, whose ages range from 19 to mid-50s, will bring a highly-valued and much needed set of skills into their communities on completion of the three-year full-time course.
A key strand of the federal government's Close the Gap initiative, the collaboration will also focus on addressing disadvantage experienced by some indigenous students in the university sector and ensure they are adequately equipped and supported to complete the course.
The link between Griffith University and Townsville District Health Service had its official launch in Townsville last week.
"This initiative allows indigenous women to take up tertiary studies and genuinely assists them in completing courses they start," senior lecturer and program convenor Dr Kerry Peart said.
"The idea was to put something extra into the program to facilitate their progress and support them through their studies. All of these students are affected in some way by isolation and we are looking at addressing this in a meaningful way.
"This program has been a long time coming and is critical to the improvement of indigenous health outcomes in maternal and child health. As a result of this program we expect to see an increase in the number of indigenous midwives employed with the district and an improvement in Indigenous maternal and child health outcomes."
Peart said one of the other driving factors was poor outcome statistics for indigenous mothers and babies during birth.
The collaboration is the brainchild of Townsville District Health Service's executive director of nursing and midwifery Cathy Styles and nursing director for indigenous health, Roianne West.
"The provision of a well trained and culturally capable maternal and child health workforce is pivotal," West said.
"Given that midwives make up the greatest percentage of that workforce an indigenous midwifery workforce is paramount."Do you have an idea for a story?
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