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Programs paving way for healthy future in Broken Hill and the Far West

Community based chronic disease initiatives are making significant improvements in the health of indigenous people across the Far West of New South Wales.

Releasing a 10-year evaluation of the Maari Ma Aboriginal Corporation’s Chronic Disease Strategy today, Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt AM said the results showed programs were helping empower locals to lead healthier lives.

“Some of the programs are not only closing the gap in health outcomes; they have also put the health results of certain local groups ahead of the average Australian results,” the Minister said.

“People in Maari Ma’s diabetes program now have blood sugar control significantly better than the national average, while those with diabetes or heart problems also have much better blood pressure and cholesterol control than the national average.

“What we are seeing in Broken Hill and the Far West are what I call ‘jewels in the crown’ of improving Aboriginal health.”

The study shows that the corporation’s Healthy StartKeeping Well and Health Service Support programs are reducing the impact of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart, kidney and lung disease, and greatly improving preventive health care.

“The number of people having annual health checks has doubled almost every year, the number of health checks for children under 15 has quadrupled, while there have also been reductions in smoking and drinking rates during pregnancy,” said the Minister.

“What is so impressive is the comprehensive nature of these programs. They look beyond the traditional notion of ‘health’, to a more holistic approach encompassing education, lifestyle and employment.

“Maari Ma also has a rock-solid commitment to local decision-making and employment, with Aboriginal people now making up well over half of the staff.”

The programs have increased the number of specialist clinics operating across the region from under 100 to almost 1000 a year.

Indigenous childhood tooth decay has dropped in almost every centre across the region, and there is now a dental service for adults.

Broken Hill hosts nation’s 100th headspace youth mental health service

A $1.787 million Turnbull Government investment in headspace services in Broken Hill will provide a significant boost to the region’s mental health care and support in an area identified as high need.

headspace will soon relocate from temporary accommodation to its permanent location at 231 Blende Street, making it the 100th headspace centre in Australia.

This service has been greatly anticipated across the community, with celebrations planned in the coming months to mark the centre’s new home.

headspace Broken Hill has been commissioned by the Western NSW Primary Health Network, and will be managed locally by a consortium of providers, led by community mental health not-for-profit organisation Flourish Australia.

Just like other services under the headspace banner across the country, the new headspace will offer early intervention support to young people aged between 12 and 25 years across Broken Hill and surrounding areas.

The Western NSW Primary Health Network region faces some unique health challenges. It holds four per cent of the NSW population, spread over more than half the State.

It experiences comparatively high rates of hospitalisations due to self-harm and a high rate of suicide. Mental health issues, psychological distress and suicide are also significant issues affecting Indigenous Australians in this region.

Early intervention offers the best way to reduce the duration and impact of mental health issues, which affect one in four young Australians. It’s critical that young people get the right support, in the right place, at the right time.

Up to six full-time equivalent staff will be employed at the Blende Street centre once services are fully operational. They will be backed by a diverse team of supporting professionals, bringing a range of tailored mental health and wellbeing support services, general medical support, vocational and educational services and alcohol and drug services.

Western NSW PHN commissioned the consortium of providers that will operate the centre, following extensive research and community consultation to understand what mental health services were required in Broken Hill and the Far West.

This means the services offered at headspace Broken Hill will target specific gaps identified in local primary health care.

Getting help early can make a real difference.

Young people who are concerned about their mental health – or the mental health of their families and friends – should to drop in to the centre, call 02 9393 9699 or email [email protected].

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