The Lighthouse Hospital Project

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are three times more likely to have a heart attack and are dying from cardiovascular disease at almost twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

Research also shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have poorer access to services that can effectively diagnose and treat cardiovascular disease.

To change this, the Heart Foundation and the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association have joined forces to deliver this federally-funded project in 18 hospitals and close the heart-health gap.

The tyranny of distance

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples often travel vast distances – sometimes interstate - for medical treatment and must leave family and their support behind. This can be isolating and overwhelming especially if they are unfamiliar with the hospital environment, the local area, services or the local languages.

Cultural experience

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have had negative experiences with institutions of all kinds, including hospitals. These negative hospital experiences can impact whether Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples feel comfortable and therefore stay in hospital and return for future treatment.

Many issues contribute to such negative experiences. These include racism, discrimination, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach that doesn’t acknowledge and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and differing views on health.

Change for the better

How hospitals engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can make a difference. 

The inclusion of Aboriginal artwork and acknowledgment of the Traditional Owners can help make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples feel welcome from the moment they enter the hospital.

Building friendly and respectful interactions with staff during Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s hospital stay can help patients feel less isolated and overwhelmed. So can providing health information in local languages and support from Aboriginal Health Unit staff. 

Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community representatives on committees and hospital working groups increases advocacy opportunities. And it helps ensure the needs and views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included in hospital planning and management. 

Read more about the background of the project, where we are now and our next steps.

The Lighthouse Toolkit

This health professional toolkit provides a framework to address health disparities facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.