Comparing cognitive assessment service provision between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians at a metropolitan health service

Renerus J. Stolwyk, Loretta Evans, Catherine O’Halloran, Julie Evans, James R. Gooden

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Objective: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations are at a significantly higher risk of neurological and cognitive impairment from a range of aetiologies. In order to better identify and support Indigenous Australians with cognitive impairment, culturally appropriate screening, management and referral processes are critical. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of presentations and type of cognitive screening conducted with Indigenous Australians presenting to health services. Methods: Hospital data for 30 Indigenous Australians presenting with neurological symptoms to Emergency Departments within a large metropolitan health service were compared with a group of 30 non-Indigenous, Australian-born, English-speaking, age-, gender- and diagnosis-matched individuals. Results: Only two individuals, one from each group, received cognitive screening. This was likely related to a surprisingly large proportion of Indigenous Australians presenting to hospital with headache and migraine. Significantly more Indigenous Australians (36.7%) were consulted by a member of the multidisciplinary team compared to 10% of the non-Indigenous group. No differences in follow-up referrals were observed. Conclusions: Results indicated a lack of cognitive screening practices being undertaken in both groups. It was encouraging to see Indigenous Australians receiving consultations from multidisciplinary team members at a higher rate, with a similar follow-up pathway being observed. This study further highlights the need for adoption of screening practices in primary health care settings and the development and use of culturally appropriate cognitive screening measures. So what?: This study investigates the cognitive screening practices of a metropolitan health service and highlights the need for culturally appropriate cognitive screening methods to be developed and implemented to facilitate the identification of cognitive impairment in Indigenous Australians presenting for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-547
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • cognitive screening
  • Indigenous health
  • neurology

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