$10m boost sheds light on medicine’s ground zero

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

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

of

ed­u­ca­tion

here

in

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.’’

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