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Free diabetes health checks for Indigenous community at rugby league carnival


Sharlene King
20 September 2013

Free diabetes health checks for Indigenous community

Southern Cross University has teamed up with the Indigenous community to offer free diabetes health checks to those most vulnerable to the disease during this weekend’s Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival in Lismore (September 21 and 22).

The School of Health and Human Sciences initiative will see the University’s mobile health clinic set up at the Knockout Carnival being played at Crozier Oval. The mobile health clinic will be operating on Saturday September 21 from 10am to 4pm and on Sunday September 22 from 10am to 3pm.

The free diabetes health check is available to Indigenous people over 45 years of age. Those completing the diabetes blood test will also get their Knockout Carnival entrance fee refunded.

This project was possible due to funding made available by Health Workforce Australia.

The NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival is an annual grassroots football competition attracting teams and spectators from across the state. Around 2000 spectators are expected in Lismore to watch 16 senior men’s teams compete.

Grantley Creighton, Knockout Carnival organiser and secretary of the Lismore-based Northern United rugby league club, said diabetes was a major health issues for Indigenous people.

“Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease in Australia, but also one of the most preventable. Indigenous people and older people are most at risk of type 2 diabetes.

“There is some awareness of the disease out there but not enough. It’s shocking the number of people in the Indigenous community with diabetes who don’t know they have it.

“We encourage as many people as possible to take this opportunity during the Carnival to get their sugar checked.”

Indigenous health workers and nurses have been specially trained for the initiative by Fran Ditzel, a registered nurse and credentialed diabetes educator who works as a lecturer at Southern Cross University.

Ms Ditzel said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were three times more likely as non-Indigenous people to have diabetes than other Australians.

“Higher rates of obesity and poverty and lower rates of education are a factor for the Indigenous community but there's also an element of genetic pre-disposition,” she said.

“If left untreated, diabetes can cause other medical conditions and diseases, like kidney disease and heart attack.”

University project leader Dr Louise Horstmanshof said there was a three-fold benefit to the diabetes health check initiative.

“We are helping to address a serious chronic disease in the community, we are providing health checks to older Indigenous people, and we are broadening the skills of Indigenous health workers by providing them with training in diabetes testing.”

Photo: Southern Cross University’s mobile health facility.