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Cherbourg health on the way to closing the gap

INTERNATIONAL APPROACH: Michael Greenwood, Rachael Morris, Zantanna Wano, Mel Best, Cecil Brown and Janette Goeman are all working to close the gap in Cherbourg.
INTERNATIONAL APPROACH: Michael Greenwood, Rachael Morris, Zantanna Wano, Mel Best, Cecil Brown and Janette Goeman are all working to close the gap in Cherbourg. Tobi Loftus

WHEN it comes to closing the gap in indigenous health in the South Burnett, an international approach is being used.

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service acting Director of Nursing for the South Burnett Aschleigh Perring said Cherbourg had adopted an approach Canada used to close the gap there.

He said the Canadian approach was about people and services working together and with the indigenous community.

"There are some very exciting and progressive initiatives happening in Cherbourg at the moment,” Mr Perring said.

"External agencies who traditionally work very independently are working together to provide a comprehensive health, education and social services to achieve the best outcomes for individuals and families.

"Service providers are able to metaphorically wrap their arms around individuals and families that need support and provide a very focused and continuous approach to their care.

"Both the Canadian and Cherbourg approaches recognise that there are very specific healthcare challenges in indigenous communities, and collaboration is needed between government and the community to make a real difference.”

Nationwide statistics show 11% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have diabetes, three times higher than non-indigenous Australians and 18% have kidney disease. Almost 90% of those showing signs of kidney disease did not have a diagnosed condition, which meant their conditions were untreated until kidney failure or dialysis treatment is needed.

On average, indigenous Australians have a life expectancy 10-17 years less than non-indigenous Australians.

Mr Perring said two specific programs out of the broader approach, had been achieving good results within the community.

"The Deadly Ears Program at Cherbourg provides ear screening assessments, eye screening assessments, general assessments such as weight, height, BMI and uses telemedicine to deliver specialist paediatric services to children and adolescents in rural and remote areas of Queensland,” he said.

"Surgery Outreach and ENT Outpatients Outreach occurs every six months and Surgery and Outpatients services are provided in Cherbourg, which saves parents and children from travelling to Brisbane to see the ENT Specialist.”

Another program at Cherbourg is the Indigenous Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Youth Program.

"This program delivers alcohol, tobacco and substance misuse harm prevention, early intervention and treatment services to reduce the uptake and rates of harm caused by alcohol consumption, smoking and use of illicit substances and inhalants,” he said.

"This service aims to increase the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and improve the transition to adulthood.

"Key to the success of this program is effective community engagement where healthcare professionals build trust and provide easy access to information and services with community members.”

Mr Perring said a healthy breakfast program, which is run five days a week, was a part of that.

He said specific health improvement outcomes could take generations before they could be seen.

"This is as the focus is on interventions and partnerships that help prevent chronic disease and provide early detection, rather than treatment once a health problem is well established,” he said.

"Some other positive outcomes that are already being seen are higher uptake of healthcare appointments which means support can be provided to (indigenous) people earlier.”

Topics:  cherbourg close the gap

South Burnett

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