The Role of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) came into being because of the inability of mainstream health services to engage Aboriginal communities with their services.

Within Australia, there is over 140 ACCHS’s.

ACCHS’s range from large multi-functional services employing several medical practitioners and providing a wide range of services, to small services without medical practitioners, which rely on AHW’s and/or nurses to provide the bulk of primary care services, often with a preventive, health education focus.

The ACCHS’s form a network, but each is autonomous and independent both of one another and of government. The integrated primary health care model adopted by ACCHS’s is in keeping with the wide range of services provided by the ACCHS’s can include:

Primary clinical care

  • Treatment of illness using standard treatment protocols
  • 24 hour emergency care
  • Provision of essential drugs, and
  • Management of chronic illness.

Population health/preventive care

  • Immunisation
  • Antenatal care
  • Appropriate screening and early intervention (including adult and child health checks and secondary prevention of complications of chronic disease)
  • Communicable disease control;
  • Pharmaeutical supply system, and
  • A comprehensive health information system (population registers, patient information recall systems, and systems for quality assurance).

Clinical support systems

Support services – internal to the health service

  • Staff training and support such as Aboriginal Health worker training, cross cultural orientation, continuing education
  • Management systems that are adequately resourced, financially accountable and include effective recruitment and termination practices,  and
  • Adequate infrastructure at the community level such as staff housing and clinical facilities, and functional transport facilities.

Support services – external to the health service

  • Systems for supporting visiting specialists and allied health professionals (including dental, mental health etc…), medical evacuation or ambulance services
  • Access to hospital facilities
  • Training role for tertiary and other students, and
  • Based on locally relevant priorities and the availability of funds for programs directed at rheumatic fever, substance misuse, nutrition, environmental health, particular target groups such as youth, aged and disabled, young mothers, schoolchildren.