$10m boost sheds light on medicine’s ground zero
From Health cover hospital admissions, and one in three deaths are due to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, chronic lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease. While mortality rates from cardiovascular disease are similar in this region as in NSW generally, it strikes much younger: twice the number of potential years of life are lost from the disease in the two regions as across the entire state.
Robinson says that since making the trip, three main areas have emerged that he feels need to be included as the new centre takes shape.
‘‘ It’s become pretty clear to me that we need more Aboriginal health care workers,’’ Robinson says.
The diploma course — the same course that Tattersall took — has recently had little inflow of new students after an expected initial surge of pent-up demand following its creation fell away. Robinson says it’s ‘‘ pretty critical’’ to funnel more students through the course, and the university ‘‘ thinks it’s important that the (NSW) health department supports its attempts’’.
The diploma course allows students to expand their qualifications further. Tattersall herself has gone on to take additional diplomas in cardiac rehabilitation and dialysis.
‘‘ The other thing that’s become pretty clear after both our trips, which wasn’t in our original proposal, is that we do need health promotion, and some of the centre’s efforts will be directed towards primary health care,’’ Robinson says.
‘‘ The faculty
the university will help us to develop heatlh education programs that some of our students can be involved in delivering.
‘‘ The other thing that came up in both Dubbo and Broken Hill is the importance of sport and football. Somehow we have to initiate discussions with football clubs and the wider community’’, with a view to enlisting successful indigenous footballers who could become role models for local youngsters.
Not only would greater physical activity improve health directly, by combating obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it would also bring ‘‘ huge psycho-social advantages’’.
‘‘ I suppose I always was aware that it was a multi-faceted problem, and that was definitely confirmed in Wilcannia and Brewarrina,’’ Robinson says. ‘‘ There’s a need for a very broad view to be taken — and health is one part of that, inextricably linked to education, housing, having a viable economy.
‘‘ If you have a good economy, you have happy people, you don’t have as much depression, or drug use. There are linkages between all these things.’’
Housing is now also on his agenda, and Robinson has already held discussions with a merchant bank on how to fund improved infrastructure, such as through public-private partnerships. The university’s role in this area is likely to be one of advocacy and making a case to government why it should be involved.
At the same time, extra benefits from the scheme as well as extra benefits are becoming apparent.
Professor David Lyle, the head of the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health, says the ‘‘ principle gap’’ that needs to be plugged in his region is for specialist endocrinologist services, after the withdrawal of a doctor who had been providing visiting services for the past four years. Having this coordinated by the new centre would improve continuity in future because the next time a doctor decides they can’t continue to provide a service, an organisation will be there to arrange a replacement.
But as well as treating patients with diabetes and other conditions, Lyle says a visiting specialist will also be able to coach local doctors in the latest treatments.
‘‘ Treatments are always improving and being refined, and the fact that you have an expert in diabetes coming regularly means that the resident primary health care workers, GPs and others are able to learn about the most recent advances.’’