Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW

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AH&MRC road trip highlights the great work of our Member Services in the wake of COVID-19

October 2nd, 2020

Categories: Blog

After months working as socially distanced desk-jockeys, the AH&MRC’s Public Health Team hit the road once more to visit Members Services including Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service (IAMS), South Coast Medical Services Aboriginal Corporation (SCMSAC) and Waminda – South Coast Women’s Health & Welfare Aboriginal Corporation. The crew included Kezia Blackledge, Marina Wise, Victoria Kennedy, and Nina Betts. They were joined by Nathan Taylor from Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA). The team wanted to check in and see how Services had been travelling over the last few months, and have a yarn about their Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) programs, palliative care, sexual health and Your Health, Your Future initiatives.

NRT helps clients quit their own way

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Services are using creative ways to stay on top of their NRT distribution.

At the South Coast AMS, the Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) team have started a numbered voucher system, with participating chemists in Nowra, Jerringa and Wreck Bay. Once clients are screened by the TIS team, they can visit their local chemist and present the voucher – with different vouchers for different types of NRT. If vouchers are missing the team will follow up with their clients. This helps the TIS team identify any barriers that could prevent clients going to their local pharmacy, and resolve any issues they may be facing, such as lack of transport.

At Waminda, having NRT stock on hand allows staff to provide immediate treatment. Once a client has been screened, providing NRT on the spot helps keep Community members engaged and motivated to quit smoking. Other strategies at Waminda include delivering the NRT, staff capacity building and actively following up with clients to see how they are going.

At IAMS, NRT is well embedded into clients’ quit journeys, which has enabled them to keep service provisions strong despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The IAMS team also surprised us with some deadly face masks designed by a local artist.

Understanding what is needed for palliative care support

The trip provided an opportunity to share AH&MRC’s latest palliative care project ‘Journey to Dreaming.’ This project aims to develop two resources; a Toolkit and Diary for Member Services, their clients, and families to find culturally appropriate support in these sensitive and sad times.

Our Member Services want to support their community as much as they can and shared their ideas to develop culturally appropriate and meaningful Journey to Dreaming resources. Some of these ideas included; offering smoking rooms, large gatherings of mob during and outside usual visiting hours, wills, funerals, Advance Care planning, family support, a space to write down important phone numbers, appointment times, an activity section, your feelings for the day, messages to your family, the types of treatment you might be receiving, and a reflection page. We look forward to working with our Members to develop the right resources and programs for the Journey to Dreaming project.

Working together on sexual health

AH&MRC staff, Keiza and Marina, had a yarn with Member Services about AH&MRC’s upcoming sexual health project. Members had the opportunity to suggest key topics they would like to include as part of the new program. The team at IAMS shared how this project can blend sexual health information with a strong cultural perspective. Waminda was interested to collaborate and develop sexual health resources for the benefit of all Member Services. The Public Health Team valued the opportunity to listen and work alongside our Members Services.

“We left the meeting in high spirits knowing we are addressing our Members’ needs and can work together from the beginning of a new project. This is the best way to truly collaborate and deliver meaningful, culturally appropriate sexual health resources for their Communities.” –  AH&MRC’s Public Health Team

Strengthening the Your Health, Your Future campaign

The team delivered Your Health, Your Future merchandise including tote bags, skipping ropes, frisbees and balls to Member Services for their Communities. Kids can have fun while staying active. It helps raise awareness for the Your Health Your Future campaign that encourages people to make the right decisions about their health, for their future. Members shared feedback on 715 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Assessments during COVID-19. Despite the outbreak, Members have encouraged Community members to visit their Services for a health assessment as the first step to looking after their health today, and tomorrow.

“We were able to get Members’ deadly feedback on ways to improve the Your Health, Your Future program. We will work to get a stronger message out to Community on the benefits of having a health assessment at their local AMS.” – AH&MRC’s Public Health Team

Authors – AH&MRC Public Health Team

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