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First Nations health initiatives

The PHN values the contributions that all First Nations people and communities make to generating new ideas and innovative solutions to improve health. Improving the health outcomes for First Nations peoples, and reaching Closing the Gap targets, continue to be PHN priority areas of focus across the Hunter, New England and Central Coast regions.

COVID-19 information for First Nations communities

The PHN recognises the increased health risks and challenges of COVID-19 for First Nations communities across our region. In addressing these the PHN developed resources to assist First Nations people to access reliable information about the COVID-19 vaccines, and to identify health services to manage and treat COVID-19 related illness.

The First Nations COVID-19 Information page contains First Nations-specific information, tips, and resources to help protect the community against COVID-19. The First Nations Health Access Team also developed several unique resources for Primary Care Providers including general practitioners, Aboriginal medical services, pharmacies and Integrated Team Care providers and First Nations community members, including:

First Nations SMS Messages developed for Primary Care providers to promote direct access to credible COVID-19 vaccine information and support. The culturally sensitive messages can be sent to First Nations patients to assist decision making and reduce the confusion created by many social media messages.

VAX FAX WITH DANE SIMPSON is a series of short yarns featuring Dane Simpson and local experts busting some myths and getting the facts about COVID-19. The videos are available on the PHN Facebook page alongside other COVID-19 updates and information.

Support and wellbeing information and advice to help cope emotionally, physically and financially during the pandemic.

Too Deadly for Diabetes

Indigenous people have higher rates of diabetes compared to the non-Indigenous population. Around 7.9 per cent of First Nations Australians live with diabetes according to self-reported data. Within the HNECC PHN region 5.4 per cent of the population (65,183) identify as Indigenous and 73 per cent of Indigenous people within our region have at least one long term health condition.

The PHN commissioned an Integrated Team Care (ITC) program to provide care coordination to First Nations people in the region living with complex chronic disease. Not all indigenous clients are eligible for the ITC program, and this has contributed to the development of a significant cohort of Indigenous people living without support until their chronic disease worsens. Promisingly health outcomes can often be resolved by modifying individual lifestyle choices, which is why the PHN commissioned the program Too Deadly for Diabetes.

Too Deadly for Diabetes is a 10-week educational and support program delivered through Aboriginal medical services. The PHN partnered with Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services on the NSW Central Coast, and Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service in Forster during 2022, to offer the research-based program to their local communities.

The Too Deadly for Diabetes program was designed and is delivered by Exercise Physiologist, Sports Scientist and Researcher, Ray Kelly, a Gomeroi man. The program offers participants access to a meal plan and exercise program in conjunction with targeted education and motivation. It works alongside local allied health professionals to target sustainable weight loss and reductions in blood pressure and blood glucose levels as desired health outcomes.

Patients participating in the program have reported a reduction in blood sugars, blood pressure, and in some cases changes to medication.

Hear more from Ray and the program's success in the video below.

MPOWER project empowers school students

In 2021 the PHN partnered with One Vision Productions to deliver a pilot project aimed at First Nations young people that used creative arts to help them reignite their passion for school, develop positive relationships, and learn valuable tools to assist them with their mental health and wellbeing.

The MPOWER Project, developed by One Vision, comprised both teacher training and student workshops incorporating hip hop/rap, dance, meditation, breath work and group exercises to build positive peer-based relationships and find new tools and strategies to support the students’ social, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Initially targeting First Nations young people, it was determined that MPOWER would benefit all students by providing a unique opportunity to encourage relationships and break down barriers. The PHN-funded project was delivered to primary school and junior high school students in nine schools in regional and remote areas of the Hunter and New England region. Following the workshops, schools were provided online classroom modules and teacher training to support their continuing education with students to enhance their mental health.

The MPOWER Project also comprises a TV platform offering students access to fitness and healthy eating information, self-help strategies and dance classes. A soon to be released MPOWER app will also allow students to record and share music in a peer-to-peer community. The accompanying video dramatically showcases the popularity and impact of the student workshops and provides telling feedback from student participants and teachers alike.

Journey to Culture

Journey to Culture was a 10-week workshop program aimed at young First Nations children in the Mid-Coast region. It was delivered by Police Citizens Youth Clubs (PCYCs) in Taree and Kempsey in partnership with the PHN.

Throughout the program the children participated in a range of activities, led by several local elders, to increase their knowledge and understanding of their Dunghutti culture. The weekly sessions offered learning about traditional dancing, traditional art and language, singing in language and storytelling. In line with cultural traditions, the boys and girls were separately taught their different customs and roles and encouraged to develop a strong connection with their cultural heritage.

Journey to Culture was funded through an Alcohol and Other Drugs Healing Forum grant from the PHN. The collaboration with the PCYCs has not only supported cultural connection, but also addressed an identified need arising from the Taree Healing Forum, held previously in the region. Following on from this project there has been a Collaborative established to address further needs of young people in the community and the gaps in services for First Nations people.

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