Cape York communities welcome injury study

Aboriginal communities in the Cape York region have welcomed the findings of a recent study into injury in their communities, even though it reveals that injury in the communities, particularly alcohol-related injury, is a serious problem.

The Study of Injury in Five Cape York Communities was undertaken by the Cairns-based Tropical Public Health Unit of Queensland Health, in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's National Injury Surveillance Unit, the Communities, and local Aboriginal Health Councils.

The study's Project Officer, Doug Gladman, said the study was multi-faceted, involving a 12-month audit of injury cases in one community, comparisons of injury between a community with a 'wet' canteen and one without, detailed case studies and a series of focus group sessions across all five communities.

'Our findings, particularly with respect to the alcohol-related injuries, were alarming for the communities - but nevertheless they have supported this study all the way and have no wish to hide the extent of the problems.'

In one community with a wet canteen (selling beer only) injury rates were as much as 190 per year per 100 males aged 16-44 years. Injuries accounted for 24% of all clinic presentations, and 34% of medical evacuations.

Alcohol was a factor in 51% of all injuries and 88% of assault injuries. These events were concentrated around pay days and canteen opening days.

Assault, including domestic violence, accounted for 292 (43%) of injuries. Other leading causes of injuries were falls, transport accidents, cutting and piercing accidents, dog bites and petrol sniffing.

'We also found that 93% of adults in the community were regular drinkers, consuming an average of 26 cans of full strength beer a week', Mr Gladman said. 'The community was spending 40% of their total income on alcohol.'

'Our study, however, is not just about problems, it is also about solutions, that in many cases have been identified by the communities themselves. Queensland Health has already acted on our findings by funding a follow-up study to further investigate the problems and implement some changes.'

Cape York Health Council Chairperson Barbara Flick said that the study was 'extremely useful' in pointing the way forward for the Communities to reduce injury incidence.


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