Identifying evidence-practice gaps and strategies for improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternal health care

Melanie E. Gibson-Helm, Jodie Bailie, Veronica Matthews, Alison F. Laycock, Jacqueline A. Boyle, Ross S. Bailie

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    Introduction: Adverse pregnancy outcomes are more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations than non-Indigenous populations in Australia. Later in life, most of the difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and non-Indigenous women is due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women attend health services regularly during pregnancy. Providing high-quality care within these appointments has an important role to play in improving the current and future health of women and babies. 

    Aim: This study engaged stakeholders in a theory-informed process to use aggregated continuous quality improvement (CQI) data to identify 1) priority evidence-practice gaps in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander maternal health care, 2) barriers and enablers to high-quality care, and 3) strategies to address identified priorities. 

    Methods: Three phases of reporting and feedback were implemented using de-identified CQI data from 91 health services between 2007 and 2014 (4,402 client records). Stakeholders (n = 172) from a range of professions and organisations participated. 

    Results: Stakeholders identified four priority areas relating to NCDs: smoking, alcohol, psychosocial wellbeing and nutrition. Barriers or enablers to high-quality care included workforce support, professional development, teamwork, woman-centred care, decision support, equipment and community engagement. Strategies to address the priorities included upskilling staff to provide best practice care in priority areas, advocating for availability of healthy food, housing and local referral options, partnering with communities on health promotion projects, systems to facilitate continuity of care and clear referral pathways. 

    Conclusions: This novel use of large-scale aggregate CQI data facilitated stakeholder input on priority evidence-practice gaps in maternal health care in Australia. Evidence-practice gaps relating to NCD risk factors and social determinants of health were prioritised, and stakeholders suggested both healthcare-focussed initiatives and approaches involving the community and the wider health sector. The findings can inform health service planning, advocacy, inter-agency strategies, and future research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0192262
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    Number of pages18
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


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