Influence of COVID-19 on the preventive health behaviours of indigenous peoples of Australia residing in New South Wales: a mixed-method study protocol

19 October 2021

INTRODUCTION: Chronic conditions impact indigenous peoples of Australia at a much higher rate than non-indigenous Australians. Attendance at the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) supported indigenous health checks are crucial to improve prevention and management of chronic health conditions. However, in conjunction with lifestyle and environmental factors, attendance rates at primary healthcare services for screening and treatment have fallen in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aims to explore the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on preventive health behaviours of indigenous Australians and the associated barriers to, and enablers of, engagement with health services to formulate a targeted intervention strategy. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: A concurrent mixed-methods study (comprising quantitative and qualitative data collection methods) will be employed. Descriptive analysis of MBS data about the characteristics of indigenous peoples of Australia claiming health assessment services will be performed. Generalised estimating equation regression models will be used to examine the use of health assessment services over time. Qualitative interviews informed by indigenous research methods will be conducted. Interviews will investigate barriers to, and enablers of, engagement with health services. Thematic approach guided by the principles of indigenist praxis, storytelling and collaborative research will be used to analyse the interview data. The project commenced in July 2020 and will be completed by July 2022. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The project received ethics approval from the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales and the University of New England Human Research Ethics Committee. Findings will be disseminated via peer-reviewed journal articles, conferences, government and relevant stakeholder reports, and infographics.