Funding has been set aside for a place-based pandemic response to the strengths and vulnerabilities of Aboriginal communities in south-eastern New South Wales.
Earlier this week Professor Kathleen Clapham from the University of Wollongong was awarded $793,125 by NSW Health for the project.
Seven projects worth $3.3m have been funded through the $25m COVID-19 Research Grants program, as part of the state's response to the virus.
NSW Health Acting Deputy Secretary, Population and Public Health, Sarah Thackway, said the grants were divided into diagnostics, prevention, and public and population health.
Prof Clapham's project focuses on public and population health and builds on her team's existing research.
Back in 2018 her research team received an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant of $498,000 for a place-based model for Aboriginal community-led solutions.
They used this to investigate the unique approaches used by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to enable community ownership of holistic health and social programs in complex community settings.
"When the COVID pandemic came along it was a clear and obvious direction in our research that we needed to look at," Prof Clapham said.
"What we are trying to achieve is a better knowledge about how Aboriginal and regional communities and the Aboriginal-controlled organisations that work in the communities are responding to all the complex issues that are confronting the communities at this time with the COVID pandemic.
"We want to be able to develop strategies in collaboration with the organisations that will put these communities in a better position to respond to COVID impacts.
"We need to have responses that really suit the culture and the populations in particular places, not just a blanket approach.
"We want to explore things like social distancing, the ability to continue cultural practices, the impacts of COVID on people who may have already experienced trauma [fires] and have a heavy burden on chronic disease, also social emotional wellbeing issues.
"So really the impact of the prevention measures and the ability of Aboriginal people to take up those prevention measures. We need to understand better how to do that and how to work with the organisations to assist with that so that punitive measures aren't taken.......we've already seen what COVID has done with those existing inequalities."
NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said even months into the pandemic, there were still many unknowns about the virus, and ongoing research was key.
"The world's population has no pre-existing immunity to COVID-19 and whilst there are significant global collaborative efforts underway to develop an effective vaccine, this could still be some time away," Dr Chant said.
"This research will help to better understand and minimise the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in NSW."
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