The NHMRC National Institute of Dementia Research has launched the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Roadmap for Dementia Research and Translation, which was developed through the leadership of Dr Kate Smith and Professor Dawn Bessarab from UWA.
The Roadmap aims to address the challenge of dementia and improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people currently living with dementia, their families, carers and communities.
It identifies five priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dementia research, which include health literacy; prevention, risk reduction and diagnosis; access to services and supports; culturally informed services and workforce; and end-of-life care.
The Roadmap was developed through Australia-wide consultation. It included 253 community members across 26 urban, rural and remote communities and was guided by a working group of researchers and healthcare professionals, who are primarily Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
UWA Professor Dawn Bessarab said Aboriginal elders played an important role in communities and contributed to the wellbeing of people in those communities.
“They are the knowledge holders. If Elders are affected by dementia, the whole community is affected,” Professor Bessarab said.
“It’s really important to work with the community from the ground up. Adopting these priorities outlined in the Roadmap will improve research and health outcomes as well as increase opportunities for early collaboration and ongoing engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders and communities.”
Dr Smith said there was limited research directly targeting dementia and dementia risk in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and poor recognition of the health condition within communities.
“From our community consultations, we heard that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wanted more information about what causes dementia and how to prevent it, early warning signs, and how to access quality and culturally appropriate care,” she said.
National Institute of Dementia Research Director Janice Besch said the Roadmap was a critically important guide to addressing the high burden of dementia in Indigenous Australians.
“Dementia is experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians at a much higher rate and with an earlier onset than in non-Indigenous Australians,” Ms Besch said.