Anaemia persists as a public health issue in many Aboriginal communities despite having standard practice guidelines. This case study reveals how Barunga Aboriginal Community in the Northern Territory (NT), Australia, implemented an Anaemia Program (1998-2016) which contributed to low anaemia prevalence in children aged under 5 years.
This retrospective qualitative case study used purposive sampling to describe the Anaemia Program and factors influencing its implementation. Themes were developed from convergence of three data sources: interviews, program observation and document review. Data were inductively analysed by an Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researcher and themes were validated by Barunga community health practitioners and compared to practice guidelines and implementation literature.
Health practitioners reported that the Anaemia Program contributed to a marked reduction in childhood anaemia prevalence over time. This was supported by available prevalence data. The locally adapted Anaemia Program was unique in the NT with a novel approach to community supplementation for anaemia prevention in addition to anaemia treatment. Supportive implementation influences included: Aboriginal leadership and the use of culturally supportive processes which reinforced the development of trust and strong relationships facilitating community acceptance of the Program. Routine, opportunistic and flexible health care practice, a holistic approach and a stable, skilled and experienced team sustained program implementation.
The holistic and successful Barunga Anaemia Program is supported by evidence and guidelines for treating and preventing childhood anaemia. The contextualisation of these guidelines aligned with the literature on effective Aboriginal primary health care implementation.
This Anaemia Program provides a model for implementation of evidence-informed guidelines in an Aboriginal primary health care setting.