Open Access Study protocol

Study protocol: national research partnership to improve primary health care performance and outcomes for Indigenous peoples

Ross Bailie1, Damin Si2*, Cindy Shannon3, James Semmens4, Kevin Rowley5, David J Scrimgeour67, Tricia Nagel1, Ian Anderson5, Christine Connors8, Tarun Weeramanthri49, Sandra Thompson1011, Robyn McDermott12, Hugh Burke13, Elizabeth Moore14, Dallas Leon15, Richard Weston16, Haylene Grogan17, Andrew Stanley18 and Karen Gardner19

Author Affiliations

1 Menzies School of Health Research, Institute of Advanced Studies, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia

2 Centre for Chronic Disease, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

3 Centre for Indigenous Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

4 Centre for Population Health Research, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute (CHIRI), Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

5 Centre for Health and Society, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

6 Discipline of Public Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

7 Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

8 Northern Territory Department of Health and Families, Darwin, Australia

9 Western Australia Department of Health, Perth, Australia

10 Centre for International Health, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

11 Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia, Geraldton, Australia

12 Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

13 Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation, Broken Hill, Australia

14 Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, Darwin, Australia

15 Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council, Brisbane, Australia

16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service - Brisbane Ltd, Brisbane, Australia

17 Department of Health, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Australia

18 Department of Health, South Australian Government, Adelaide, Australia

19 Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:129  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-129

Published: 19 May 2010



Strengthening primary health care is critical to reducing health inequity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The Audit and Best practice for Chronic Disease Extension (ABCDE) project has facilitated the implementation of modern Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) approaches in Indigenous community health care centres across Australia. The project demonstrated improvements in health centre systems, delivery of primary care services and in patient intermediate outcomes. It has also highlighted substantial variation in quality of care. Through a partnership between academic researchers, service providers and policy makers, we are now implementing a study which aims to 1) explore the factors associated with variation in clinical performance; 2) examine specific strategies that have been effective in improving primary care clinical performance; and 3) work with health service staff, management and policy makers to enhance the effective implementation of successful strategies.


The study will be conducted in Indigenous community health centres from at least six States/Territories (Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria) over a five year period. A research hub will be established in each region to support collection and reporting of quantitative and qualitative clinical and health centre system performance data, to investigate factors affecting variation in quality of care and to facilitate effective translation of research evidence into policy and practice. The project is supported by a web-based information system, providing automated analysis and reporting of clinical care performance to health centre staff and management.


By linking researchers directly to users of research (service providers, managers and policy makers), the partnership is well placed to generate new knowledge on effective strategies for improving the quality of primary health care and fostering effective and efficient exchange and use of data and information among service providers and policy makers to achieve evidence-based resource allocation, service planning, system development, and improvements of service delivery and Indigenous health outcomes.