Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander holistic health represents the interconnection of social, emotional, spiritual and cultural factors on health and well-being. Social factors (education, employment, housing, transport, food and financial security) are internationally described and recognised as the social determinants of health. The social determinants of health are estimated to contribute to 34% of the overall burden of disease experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Primary health care services currently ‘do what it takes’ to address social and emotional well-being needs, including the social determinants of health, and require culturally relevant tools and processes for implementing coordinated and holistic responses. Drawing upon a research-setting pilot program, this manuscript outlines key elements encapsulating a strengths-based approach aimed at addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander holistic social and emotional well-being.
The Cultural Pathways Program is a response to community identified needs, designed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and informed by holistic views of health. The program aims to identify holistic needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the starting point to act on the social determinants of health. Facilitators implement strengths-based practice to identify social and cultural needs (e.g. cultural and community connection, food and financial security, housing, mental health, transport), engage in a goal setting process and broker connections with social and health services. An integrated culturally appropriate clinical supervision model enhances delivery of the program through reflective practice and shared decision making. These embedded approaches enable continuous review and improvement from a program and participant perspective. A developmental evaluation underpins program implementation and the proposed culturally relevant elements could be further tailored for delivery within primary health care services as part of routine care to strengthen systematic identification and response to social and emotional well-being needs.