Health benefits of community buy-in

Monday 13 February 2023

Indigenous communities need to guide the way to improved health outcomes for their children and families, a leading researcher at Mater Research says.

The institute’s Principal Research Fellow in Indigenous Health, Associate Professor Kym Rae, stressed the importance of community involvement when talking about her own work which is focused firstly on finding out from Indigenous people what their health priorities and needs are before embarking on Indigenous studies as part of a wider Queensland Family Cohort Study.

While the rate of deaths among Indigenous children aged up to four is twice that of non-Indigenous people in Australia, with no significant change in that gap for more than a decade, she said collaborative programs working with community-controlled programs in partnered approaches such as the Birth in Our Community service at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital were improving outcomes.

The award-winning researcher conceded her background as a non-Indigenous person meant she may not even be asking the right questions.

"Unless the community tells me what are, and how to ask the right questions, we are not going to find the right answers to improve outcomes," Assoc Prof Rae said.

"When Indigenous communities are embedded into health research programs it helped people take a sense of ownership and pride in the work and built trust and involvement," she said.

“Communities really drive how well or not those programs progress. I want them to be as much community-led as they can be.”

Associate Professor Rae is leading the Queensland Family Cohort Study alongside Professor Vicki Clifton which is looking at the health of 10,000 families across the state. It is founded at Mater Mothers’ Hospitals.

She is leading study areas unique to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The study aims to identify the strengths and the risk factors that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island families face with a particular focus on chronic diseases such as renal disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

As part of the study she has been working with organisations in Brisbane, the Darling Downs and Cairns to identify health priorities. In 2023 she will be extending that work into other centres including the Torres Strait, Mount Isa, Rockhampton and Townsville.

For details on the study visit