How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?
Indigenous health is an important and broad area with many challenges facing health workers and professionals. From my time working in Indigenous affairs for ten years I have seen first hand how difficult making effective change and advancements can be. I know there is not an easy answer to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. What I do know is with the skills and knowledge I have gained through my work and studies I can make a purposeful contribution to improving these issues.
The answers to improving Indigenous health outcomes are different and change with communities. The answers are within these communities. I believe health workers and practitioners should primarily be there to facilitate discussions for outcomes and implement ideas or priorities that come from within community.
From my perspective, prevention is better than cure. With the rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease increasing through Indigenous communities and the general population it is clear intervention needs to be earlier and more successful.
As the mother of two small children I have seen first hand the importance of nutrition and setting solid eating habits from a young age. I am well aware of the challenges facing not only Indigenous parents, but parents in general, with regard to their children’s nutritional behaviours. Forming healthy relationships with food in children as early as possible is the focus of where my direction lies for my future career. Working in Aboriginal education for five years gave me a deep understanding of how important education is. Education gives Aboriginal people opportunities to find employment that can lead to a career where they can provide for their family. Employment and gaining knowledge and skills contributes to overcoming disadvantage, addressing trauma and better health outcomes. From my own experience of being privileged enough to gain a higher education it is clear to me that education and health go hand in hand. Early childhood education is paramount to continued success in school but if students are food insecure it would be remiss to expect high levels of concentration or an ability to thrive in that environment. Hence why I believe that real changes can be made through ensuring Indigenous children have the best possible start with their health, nutrition and education. Educating parents is an excellent place to start and through the Eat It To Beat It program with the Cancer Council I have been privy to experiencing a community based nutrition program. Whilst I complete my studies I will continue to volunteer my time to reaching parents of school aged children to assist in improving their nutritional habits. From there I hope to work with Aboriginal communities on the South Coast of NSW to empower parents and children to be confident in making nutritionally sound decisions and in turn attain better health outcomes.
Current Progressive Report
It’s hard to believe we are already nearing the end of April 2022! This year, like most of them, has absolutely flown by. I am currently back at work after completing 10 weeks of placement. I started in late January with 5 weeks at St George Hospital. After that I went straight to Wollongong Hospital for another 5 weeks. 10 weeks total for what is called our ICM or Individual Case Management placements. My placements were based around clinical dietetics and seeing people primarily as inpatients in a hospital setting. I got to see a range of people admitted under many different clinical areas. It was a very, very steep learning curve and a very up and down pathway. I ended on a high and felt really capable and confident in my ability to undertake the work by the end of the 10 weeks.
Right now I’m back working for a few weeks before my next (and final placement)! This one will be based locally and will be 6 weeks of Community and Public Health Nutrition. I’m very much looking forward to this placement as I’m really interested in public health nutrition. And once that one is done I will have completed my Masters. My finish date is the 10th of June and it feels very surreal that it is so close. For a long time I didn’t think I would ever get here!
The end of last year saw me complete my Food Service Management placement. This was for 4 weeks and we were working from home. I was with a group of other students and we worked together on a couple of projects which were both interesting. It was good to get a placement done at the end of last year after a pretty chaotic time with lockdowns and lots of uncertainty.
I also finished and submitted by research project looking at stakeholder views for infant feeding resources for Aboriginal babies and families. I loved working on that project and I was really proud of the report I ended up submitting at the end of a very big year.
It’s currently school holidays so I’ve been really enjoying spending so much time with the kids. I felt very distant and disconnected from my family while I was on the hospital based placements as it took so much mental capacity from me so I was very drained at the end of each day. But we are making up for lost time spending time seeing family and friends and making sure to get outside while it’s not raining!