UQ partners with Aboriginal health clinic to expose urgent needs for health housing to prevent coronavirus transmission

26 March 2020

The University of Queensland is proud to release a new report regarding crowding, public housing malfunction and infectious disease transmission in remote Indigenous communities and towns.

It features a case study of Tennant Creek and the Barkly region NT. It was conducted as a partnership between Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation and The University of Queensland, funded by a Global Change Flagship grant.

In this time of coronavirus risks, the virus has been noted to spread rapidly within families and within households. Indigenous Australians have high levels of existing health conditions, and this places them at greater risk of serious health outcomes if they contract coronavirus.

The report, ‘Pilyii Papulu Purrukaj-ji (Good housing to prevent sickness): A study of housing, crowding and hygiene-related infectious diseases in the Barkly Region, Northern Territory’, draws data from a clinical database, a survey of households in town and bush communities, and interviews with clinicians and public health staff of the Anyinginyi clinic. The data provide a ‘snapshot in time’ of the health status, housing quality and crowding levels.

Key points from the report are:

  • Health and housing are linked: Housing and crowding are critical to health: sufficient, well-maintained housing infrastructure can support healthy living practices for hygiene, nutrition and safety. A lack of functioning ‘health hardware’ (showers, toilets, hot water, fridges) increases the transmission risk of hygiene-related infectious diseases.
  • Crowding is chronic: There are much higher levels of crowding in bush communities and in town than officially recorded, with an average of 10.8 people, and up to 22 people per house.
  • Infectious diseases are prevalent in very high rates: There are high rates of preventable, hygiene-related infectious diseases in the bush communities and towns, especially skin infections (boils, sores, scabies and school sores), respiratory infections (upper and lower respiratory tract), and ear, nose and throat infections (middle ear/otitis media, tonsillitis, ear canal and pharyngitis/sore throat).
  • Repeat infections can lead to chronic conditions and early death: Longer term, chronic kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease are the outcome of repeated infection.
  • Housing repairs and new builds are urgently required: New housing is required to reduce current crowding, yet no new housing has been built in at least 12 years in the Barkly region. Housing repairs are often delayed.

Download the report

For additional details, contact lead researcher Dr Nina Hall, The University of Queensland, n.hall2@uq.edu.au