‘Get to know your colleague’ – Anthea Brand

Anthea Brand is a Project Director for the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals at the Centre for Remote Health (Flinders Rural & Remote Health NT) in Alice Springs.

Remote Primary Heath Care Manuals are considered a gold standard among the healthcare professionals and are used to support and promote good clinical practice in primary health care in central, northern, and remote Australia.

Anthea heads up the project to further develop the manuals to be utilised by health care workers including remote area nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners, doctors, midwives, nurse practitioners, and allied health professionals.

In addition to that she is also a soon-to-be Flinders University PhD recipient. Her research thesis and studies arose from her work as a dietitian with Aboriginal families and communities in regional and remote areas of Australia over a period of more than 20 years. Her research question centred on exploring whether the nutrition activities undertaken by health professionals met the needs of Aboriginal caregivers with young children.

Over the past 8 years she has worked in Central Australia, initially as an outreach dietitian in remote communities, before moving into an urban city role not long after commencing her PhD.

Her research arose from concerns raised by the families that she has worked with, particularly in the study community, who were worried about their children’s future health and the possibility that they would need to move away from family and community to seek medical care if they became unwell with the chronic diseases that were impacting so many people in the community.

Over the course of her career Anthea had developed a strong interest in early childhood nutrition and the opportunities that establishing health eating behaviours from the time of the commencement of foods into the diet could have on future food preferences and health outcomes.

She situated her research in one remote community in Central Australia so that she could work closely with the community and meet with families at multiple times.

She then explored the nutrition related activities of health professionals and what they felt influenced their practices and interactions with caregivers.

Anthea found that whilst caregivers were able to report the nutrition recommendations provided by health professionals, the health professionals had little knowledge of caregiver’s feeding practices and the determinants of these.

Health and nutrition were also viewed very differently by caregivers and health professionals. Caregivers had a holistic view of health and its determinants and described social, behavioural and development influences on how and what children were fed. Health professionals’ practices however were limited by a narrow biomedical and physiological view of nutrition which inhibited their consideration of the wider determinants of health and nutrition, including Indigenous determinants of health.

Further, the health system and the ways in which Aboriginal people, health and the social determinants of health were viewed by health professionals constricted the ability of health professionals to implement cultural safety and comprehensive primary health care. If health professionals are to meet the needs of Aboriginal caregivers, they need to be able to collaborate in knowledge sharing. This requires changes to the wider health system and to health professional training.

Anthea has shared the knowledge gained from her research in mentoring and professional practice supervision of dietitians and child health nurses.

Since publishing her work, she has taken on the role of Project Director of the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals with the Centre for Remote Health to explore opportunities to implement cultural safety and comprehensive primary health care in remote Indigenous health practice.

To find out more about Anthea’s academic and research work visit: https://www.flinders.edu.au/people/anthea.brand

To learn more about Remote Primary Health Care Manuals visit: https://www.crh.org.au/remote-primary-health-care-manuals/remote-primary-health-care-manuals-suite

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Centre for Remote Health (CRH) Flinders NT Flinders University