“Got to build that trust”: Aboriginal Health Workers’ perspectives and experiences of maternal oral health

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Journal Article
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Abstract Background Aboriginal Health Workers provide a unique insight into understanding the health needs of the Aboriginal peoples in the community on account of their cultural knowledge, experiences and understanding of the health services. The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of Aboriginal Health Workers towards oral health care to inform the development of an oral health care program to better meet the oral health needs of Aboriginal pregnant women and new mothers.Methods A participatory action research methodology informed the study. Focus groups were conducted with Aboriginal Health Workers at two antenatal health services in Sydney, Australia.Results A total of 14 people participated in the focus groups. The four themes that emerged from the focus groups provided insight on the importance of trust in the building of empowering relationships with Aboriginal women and highlighted the need for Aboriginal Health Workers to receive additional training to better address the oral health needs of Aboriginal pregnant women and new mothers. However, the Aboriginal Health Workers worked in a system fundamentally driven by the legacy of colonisation and integenerational trauma that has created systemic barriers to access of health services, including dental care. The participants recommended that a priority dental referral pathway, that supported continuity of care, could provide increased accessibility to dental care for Aboriginal pregnant women and new mothers.Conclusions The oral health of Aboriginal pregnant women and new mothers is supported by Aboriginal Health Workers, who outlined both a systems and an individual approach in delivery of existing dental care. The Aboriginal Health Workers provided recommendations to develop a program of dental care that could break down the systemic factors that create barriers to accessing dental care for Aboriginal women.
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