James Cook University medical students have helped establish a community health hub at a local primary school in Townsville.
The health hub is offering health screening, food tasting and demonstrations, as well as health promotion and dressings for minor wounds, in an effort to help break down the barriers that may have existed between the community and the health profession.
Associate Professor Suzanne McKenzie, Head of General Practice and Rural Medicine at JCU, said as part of their General Practice placement, year five medical students had helped establish a community health hub at Vincent State Primary School.
“Vincent State School has had a number of setbacks, including a 'mini tornado' that struck the area in February, and combined with the fact the school has a high Indigenous enrolment, families in the area are often disadvantaged and unable to access health care,” she said.
Some young students were tasting certain fresh fruit and vegetables for the first time, she said.
“Many children were introduced to celery, yoghurt and capsicums for the first time and parents now ask questions about how to care for the younger children in the family, making health knowledge more accessible.”
Associate Professor McKenzie said the collaborative model involved Communities for Children, a network of organisations working in the area for children aged 0-12.
Dr Nicole Mohajer, from the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Services, said the local Medicare 'Closing the Gap' team was also involved, who help families obtain follow-up treatment or advice at the GP of their choice and Department of Communities ATSIS, who funded the equipment and dressings.
The groups of fifth year students would be taking part on their six-week placements, she said.
“By being available on the day, they can respond to health needs as they arise and develop programs around them,” she said.
“For example, after screening most of the 'at risk' children in the first three months, the medical students felt that they needed to pass on health messages about scabies, dental health and ear health to all the students.
“For the next two months, each week the medical students would visit a different class and discuss health promotion while checking ears or skin or hair.”
The program could be adapted to other schools and Garbutt State School has asked if they could be next, she said.
“To launch the Garbutt school program and to celebrate what has happened at Vincent, the next group of medical students organised community health expos at both schools, with stalls looking at the amount of sugar in soft drinks, ear health checks, skin checks and a mental health stall focussing on quiet time and friendship.”
Other agencies were also there with health related stalls.
Associate Professor McKenzie said one of the primary children remarked; "This is deadly, can we do it every day?"
“The model could easily be expanded to other sites and is expected to be introduced in another school next year. It is a great example of how simple actions can have a large impact and how JCU is leading the way in innovations and collaborations,” Associate Professor McKenzie said.
Note for media: The health team is at the school every Tuesday afternoon during school terms. Please alert JCU media if you wish to go to the school.
For interviews or other photos, contact: Dr Nicole Mohajer on 0407 536 661.
JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175