Objectives: Culturally safe health care services contribute to improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia. Yet there has been no comprehensive systematic review of the literature on what constitutes culturally safe health care practice. This gap in knowledge contributes to ongoing challenges providing culturally safe health services and policy. This review explores culturally safe health care practice from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples as recipients of health care in Western high-income countries, with a specific focus on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Methods: A systematic meta-ethnographic review of peer-reviewed literature was undertaken across five databases: Ovid MEDLINE, Scopus, PsychINFO, CINAHL Plus and Informit. Eligible studies included Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples receiving health care in Australia, had a focus on exploring health care experiences, and a qualitative component to study design. Two authors independently determined study eligibility (5554 articles screened). Study characteristics and results were extracted and quality appraisal was conducted. Data synthesis was conducted using meta-ethnography methodology, contextualised by health care setting.
Results: Thirty-four eligible studies were identified. Elements of culturally safe health care identified were inter-related and included personable two-way communication, a well-resourced Indigenous health workforce, trusting relationships and supportive health care systems that are responsive to Indigenous Peoples’ cultural knowledge, beliefs and values.
Conclusions: These elements can form the basis of interventions and strategies to promote culturally safe health care practice and systems in Australia. Future cultural safety interventions need to be rigorously evaluated to explore their impact on Indigenous Peoples’ satisfaction with health care and improvements in health care outcomes.