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Qual Prim Care. 2010;18(1):65-74.

Antenatal services for Aboriginal women: the relevance of cultural competence.

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Collaboration for Applied Research and Evaluation, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 100 Roberts Road, Subiaco, 6008, WA, Australia.



Due to persistent significantly poorer Aboriginal perinatal outcomes, the Women's and Newborns' Health Network, Western Australian Department of Health, required a comprehensive appraisal of antenatal services available to Aboriginal women as a starting point for future service delivery modelling. A services audit was conducted to ascertain the usage frequency and characteristics of antenatal services used by Aboriginal women in Western Australia (WA).


Telephone interviews were undertaken with eligible antenatal services utilising a purpose specific service audit tool comprising questions in five categories: 1) general characteristics; 2) risk assessment; 3) treatment, risk reduction and education; 4) access; and 5) quality of care. Data were analysed according to routine antenatal care (e.g. risk assessment, treatment and risk reduction), service status (Aboriginal specific or non-specific) and application of cultural responsiveness.


Significant gaps in appropriate antenatal services for Aboriginal women in metropolitan, rural and remote regions in WA were evident. Approximately 75% of antenatal services used by Aboriginal women have not achieved a model of service delivery consistent with the principles of culturally responsive care, with few services incorporating Aboriginal specific antenatal protocols/programme, maintaining access or employing Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs). Of 42 audited services, 18 Aboriginal specific and 24 general antenatal services reported utilisation by Aboriginal women. Of these, nine were identified as providing culturally responsive service delivery, incorporating key indicators of cultural security combined with highly consistent delivery of routine antenatal care. One service was located in the metropolitan area and eight in rural or remote locations.


The audit of antenatal services in WA represents a significant step towards a detailed understanding of which services are most highly utilised and their defining characteristics. The cultural responsiveness indicators used in the audit establish benchmarks for planning culturally appropriate antenatal services that may encourage Aboriginal women to more frequently attend antenatal visits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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