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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Aug-Sept
Active RetireesTM | 47 ROTARy PROjECTS Healthy start A scholarship fund has been established by Australian Rotary Health (ARH) to help Indigenous Australians become health practitioners. There is a strong need for Indigenous health professionals in both rural and urban Indigenous communities. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples describe the prospect of seeking medical advice from non-Indigenous practitioners as daunting, and would feel more comfortable seeing a doctor from their own culture, meaning they are more likely to seek medical advice in a timely manner if Indigenous doctors, nurses and other health professionals are available. Improving the statistics Statistically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the poorest levels of health in this country. Life expectancies for both male and female Indigenous peoples are more than 17 years below the national averages. Hospitalisation rates are 12 times higher for Indigenous Australians than for any other group, and this is mostly due to conditions such as circulatory and respiratory disease, type two diabetes (the prevalence of which is nearly four times higher than in non-Indigenous communities), kidney disease, ear and eye infection, and mental and behavioural disorders. ARH hopes to improve the situation by providing Indigenous students with $5000 a year to help cover the expenses of tertiary education. Around 70 per cent of the scholarship recipients are mature age, many with families to support. With joint funding from the Federal Government and ARH, the scholarship program will provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with the financial support to complete training in nursing, medicine and allied health fields. As ARH believes in a holistic approach, the scholarship program is available to students studying in any area related to health, such as medicine, surgery, nursing, psychology, social work, podiatry, dentistry or nutrition. Health and leadership The establishment of an Indigenous Australian Health Team at the Inala Community Health Centre in Brisbane, for example, was found to have a considerable impact on the health status of the Indigenous community. Having an Indigenous doctor on staff attracted more Indigenous patients, who believed the doctor had a stronger understanding of their needs. The overall health of the community improved as a result. But according to project co- coordinator Cheryl Deguara, this is just one part of the equation. ARH hopes that the benefit the program will bring to Indigenous communities is two-pronged, with both the health and education levels improved by the presence of Indigenous medical professionals. “The project aims to increase the number of Indigenous Australian medical staff,” says Cheryl, “but also to encourage Indigenous health professionals to go into communities as leaders and mentors. “Trained nurses and doctors from Indigenous backgrounds will show other people in the community the benefits of seeking further education.” As role models, their social influence will extend beyond the consultation room into advocacy and leadership in areas including housing, education and community services. •• Indigenous health is at the top of the agenda for Australian Rotary Health, writes Ann Luff. Statistically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the poorest levels of health in this country. of scholarship holders are mature-age students Hospitalisation rates for Indigenous Australians are 12 times higher than for any other group 17.2 YEARS 70% 12X the difference between the life expectancies of Indigenous and non- Indigenous Australians
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