Introduction: Rural and remote children have poorer health outcomes, including increased infant mortality, compared to their metropolitan counterparts. Indigenous Health Workers (IHW) have an integral role in health promotion and reducing morbidity and mortality for children and families in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Pēpi-pod® Program, a safe sleep enabler program, was introduced in 2013 in several Queensland communities as a strategy to address higher rates of infant mortality. Program integration into service models was achieved at varying levels across government and nongovernment organisations. This study aimed to examine IHW perspectives of the impact of the Pēpi-pod® Program on their health promotion role and in the communities they work. Methods: The study design employed a mixed methodology to report on the experiences and impact of the Pēpi-pod® Program amongst Indigenous Health Workers who had integrated the Program into their Maternal and Child Health service. The first phase, survey feedback of the program from service sites, will be reported here. Participants were asked to respond to open ended questions during scheduled Program competency testing. Questions related to how well the program supported their practice in health promotion, facilitated safe sleep conversations and if the program increased awareness of safe infant sleep in community. Results: All participants felt that the Pēpi-pod® Program should be integrated into their service. Participants identified that the Program allowed for non-judgemental presentation of safe sleep information, and appreciated Program demonstration of a safe sleep alternative for families. Completion of the Pēpi-pod® Program training was reported by participants to provide them with greater confidence as their awareness of infant safe sleep and risk factors had increased and they felt comfortable translating those key messages in the communities they work. Relevance: Indigenous Health Worker perspectives indicated that involvement in the Pēpi-pod® Program had facilitated building their capacity to undertake safe sleep health promotion and assist families in providing safe sleep environments for babies at high risk for SUDI. All participants identified the Program as worthwhile and saw value in it continuing within their communities. Conclusion: Indigenous Health Workers are integral members of the rural and remote health workforce. These findings, along with those from a Photovoice examination and focus group interview exploration of the impact of the Pēpi-pod® Program, will be used to inform future initiatives which aim to improve rural and remote health service delivery for infants and children.
2016 Caring for Country Kids, Alice Springs, Australia 17-19 April 2016