Federal government hands Edith Cowan Uni AU$4.5m for Indigenous health website

The new funding will allow HealthInfoNet to maintain and update its content, with new evidence-based resources.

The Australian government has handed Western Australia's Edith Cowan University (ECU) AU$4.5 million to continue to manage and operate the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website and associated resources, such as the Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre and Environmental Health portal.

The AU$4.5 million will be divided up so that AU$412,000 will be put towards resources for alcohol and other drugs, preventative health, and chronic disease support; AU$75,000 for the environmental health portal; and the remainder will be used over the next three years to enable ECU to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector information through the HealthInfoNet website.

"Our website is massive," Neil Drew, director of HealthInfoNet, told ZDNet.

"The core funding enables us to gather up all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector information, relating to research, literature, reports, and anything to do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, get it into our database, and then make it available by classifying it in a variety of ways, summarising it, synthesising it, and analysing it, and making it available through our web resources."

The government has funded ECU to deliver the HealthInfoNet since it was established in 1997.

Drew explained HealthInfoNet was designed to provide a "knowledge exchange" of information that is "timely, accessible, and relevant to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce".

"One of the difficulties is there is such a large amount of information available to us. We live in this massive data ecosystem. It was estimated in 2005 that you would need to be reading up to 19 original research papers in a day just to be keeping up with biomedicine alone, and that's been growing at 7% a year. Now, you'd need to be reading 20 or 30 research papers a day just to be keeping up and we cover 40 health topics," he continued.

"I'm being facetious, but people would need to be reading literally dozens and dozens of original research papers just to be keeping with the different topic areas, and that's just beyond capability of the most dedicated health practitioner.

"Our purpose is to take all of that primary research and use very rigorous research processes to distil that down to manageable chunks, so people can use and inform their everyday practice and decision making when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health."

The current version of the website was launched two years after ECU completely redesigned the backend, Drew said.

"We have a completely redesigned the custom design classification system that enables us to take any particular resource and classify it according to health topics, region, what type of resource it is, and then connect it up through tagging, to all different areas of the website so people can find a piece of information through multiple channels," he said. 

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