24 May 2021.

As the pandemic rolls into its second year, health care workers in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) are still at the forefront of managing COVID-19 and its flow-on effects in their communities. Working under such challenging conditions can be stressful for health care workers and have negative impacts on their mental health. However, little is known about how to best support health care workers in the face of an ever-changing pandemic.

New research will test community-led strategies for supporting the mental health of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service workers across NSW.

A new Sax Institute study funded by a NSW Health COVID-19 research grant is set to change this – with research that will test community-led strategies for supporting the mental health of ACCHS workers across NSW, as well as monitoring staff’s mental health changes over the next 18 months.

Sandra Bailey, Chief Investigator of the study and Senior Adviser, Aboriginal Health at the Sax Institute, says the project will take an Aboriginal community-led approach. “We’ll be working closely with ACCHS health workers and using ACCHS-nominated strategies for supporting their mental health,” she says.

“In this way, the ACCHSs will control how the research is conducted, and most importantly, find ways to support mental health that works for them and their communities.”

Ms Bailey says the project will also monitor staff’s mental health changes over the next 18 months, providing first-ever insights into how ACCHS health workers are coping with the changing nature of the pandemic.

This new research is made possible thanks to the long-running partnerships between NSW Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and the Sax Institute. Many of these partnerships began as part of the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH), which provides the largest data set on Aboriginal children and young people living in urban areas.

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