Removing barriers for Indigenous Australians suffering with obstructive sleep apnea

Posted 13 Jul 2022

New research at Flinders aims to improve health outcomes for Indigenous Australians with obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common condition that can contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness, neurocognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of motor vehicle or work-related accidents.

Indigenous Australian communities may have difficulty in accessing diagnostic sleep services, sleep physician clinics and therapy for OSA because of remote residence, high costs, environmental factors, poor awareness of sleep health and a lack of culturally appropriate services.

Flinders Foundation Health Seed Grant recipient, Associate Professor Ching Li Chai-Coetzer (pictured), believes a model of care based in Indigenous communities and led by Aboriginal health workers has the potential to overcome many of these barriers.

“We will work with Aboriginal community leaders to co-design and evaluate the acceptability of training Aboriginal health workers, or nurses, to set up a primary care-based pathway to diagnose and treat OSA within Indigenous communities,” A/Prof Chai-Coetzer said.

“We will be identifying participants from an Indigenous community, who are at high risk of OSA based on their response to a previously completed OSA screening questionnaire. Participants will be offered diagnostic testing at home with a simple sleep monitoring device to confirm if they have moderate-severe OSA.

“Patients with OSA will be managed by a community-based Aboriginal health worker or nurse, who will be trained and supported by specialist sleep physicians and nurses at Flinders Medical Centre, and offered treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.”

This research has the potential to significantly benefit Indigenous Australians with sleep disorders, their families and communities, primary care and sleep service providers, and the overall health system within Australia.

Ching Li

This project is a collaboration between the between FHMRI Sleep Health and SAHMRI’s Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Equity theme.


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