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Our Aboriginal Health Workers on a busy Autumn on the road

As Autumn settles in, our Aboriginal Health workers KATHRYN HUET and ADELINE PARFITT are heading out and about to spread the word about diabetes.

As we write this, we’re getting ready for a couple of days of basketball. Over 11 and 12 April, we’re going to be in Bunbury at the Binar Futures basketball tournament and health embassy. The idea is that Aboriginal kids come along with their families to play basketball and, while they’re there, they receive free health checks. With our help, they also learn a bit about diabetes.

This will be our second tournament this year. The first one was in Albany back in January and it was just great. Our interactions with the kids were magnificent. We were able to share so much with them. What’s good for them to eat, what’s not so good, how many serves of sugar are in soft drinks, and all that sort of stuff. We also showed them our healthy plate and compared it with a not-so-healthy one.

We asked them to show us a nice healthy dinner, lunch or breakfast or something and we talked about how they could make it a bit healthier. And we talked about carbs and hidden sugars.

Those sessions are great because the parents come around with the kids and they are learning as well. It’s a whole family education. We’ll be running a wide variety of education sessions this Autumn. This includes regular information sessions at Bandyup Women’s Prison. Those have become more important since the smoking ban in prisons, as a consequence of that seems to be
that some of the women there have started to put on weight.

We run interactive sessions that take a holistic approach, helping the women understand what’s going on in their bodies and how blood glucose and diabetes works. We know those women have so much going on in their lives and we’re just a small part of it, but those visits feel important.

Further afield, we’ll be travelling out to the NG Lands in May to train six Aboriginal health workers to deliver our DESY education sessions. This is the first time we’ve gone out there to train people in their Community and it’s so important, because it means these educators will be talking to their own mob. To people they know, to their Elders, in language they know. A lot of the people living on the NG Lands don’t know how to speak English, so it makes a big difference when people from those Communities can lead diabetes education. It means people are more comfortable  coming to the education sessions and we know that people learn more when they’re comfortable.

Once we’ve trained the health workers, we’ll continue to keep in touch with them. There’s a quality development process they have to go through to get accredited and we help them with that. And we’ll continue to mentor and support them once they are accredited.

May is going to be a busy month for us. We’ll also be attending the West Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector Conference, which is for health care professionals working in Aboriginal health throughout Australia. And there’s the National Gathering, which is always a big deal. That’s a great opportunity to meet up with other Aboriginal health workers and educators from across Australia. This year we’re talking about the Diabetes Yarning program we’ve been rolling out.

The Yarning program is the latest offering from the NDSS and is based around feedback they received from older programs like the Feltman™. The approach of that session is to make things a bit more relaxed — to talk with people, not at them. It’s also designed to be culturally appropriate for Aboriginal Communities. The whole thing only takes two or three hours. We’ll be training health
professionals to deliver that program, as well as our own DESY program, in the months ahead.

As the weather changes for Autumn, we tend to get back on the road a bit more. Wherever you’re reading this – be it Kalgoorlie, Geraldton or the NG Lands – there’s a chance we’ll be somewhere near you in the next couple of months. If you see us at a community function, come and say hello. We love being out in the community, sharing information about diabetes, and we’re always up for a yarn.

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