A FANTASTIC program built around the concept of utilising the strength and passion for Rugby League throughout remote communities to drive outcomes in health has been nominated for a National Indigenous Health Award.
The Northern Pride, a Club in the Intrust Super Cup, have built a unique and innovative programme named the Take Pride Program, which is based around providing community outcomes in far north Queensland across education, employment, health/wellbeing and sporting pathways.
Under the health/wellbeing pillar, the Take Pride Program has been recognised for its work in improving the health of Indigenous children, at a national awards ceremony in Sydney this week.
The Take Pride in Personal Hygiene program has been co-nominated with the Cairns Public Health Unit, Queensland Health, in the 3rd Annual Excellence in Indigenous Health Awards, which takes place tonight.
The program, which is a joint initiative of the Cairns Public Health Unit and the Northern Pride Rugby League Club, is up against entries from across Australia in the Environmental Health Initiatives category.
Northern Pride Chief Executive Officer Chris Sheppard, a former North Queensland Cowboys and St George/Illawarra player, said the recognition was reward for the positive changes the program has made in improving personal hygiene among children in Indigenous communities across far north Queensland.
“The aim of the program is to utilise Rugby League and high-profile players/role models that are from far north Queensland and that the children can relate to for delivery and education on the importance of stopping germs from entering their bodies through their mouths and making them sick,” he said.
“This personal hygiene program has been an extension to the long-standing Environmental Health Worker Program, which has been co-ordinated and supported by Queensland Health, and the Northern Pride is excited to be partners in this exciting initiative.
“We have worked closely with the Cairns Public Health Unit to deliver a coordinated message using locally-employed environmental health workers (EHWs) and sport as a universal communicator.
“Rugby League is like a religion in far north Queensland and when you have high profile players like Ty Williams, Rod Jensen, Chey Bird, Michael Bani, Francis Mosby and others, the level of engagement and interaction the children have in the sessions and the learning they take away from the session is unmatched.”
“The outcomes we’ve seen to date even with this smaller pilot program are fantastic.”
The project, which was launched in July last year and utilises the national No Germs on Me program resources, has already achieved significant results:
• Teachers have reported that 91 per cent of students’ knowledge about unclean hands potentially causing illness was good to very good, compared to 51 per cent prior to the project
• 100 per cent of teachers rated the students’ hand washing practices as good to very good after the project, compared to 32 per cent prior to the project
• Teachers reported that 86 per cent of students’ knowledge of the environmental health worker role was good or very good, compared to 47 per cent prior to the project.
Queensland Health Indigenous Environmental Health Program Officer Clayton Abreu said schools in far north Queensland communities had really taken the messages on board.
“School principals have told us that students are no longer playing in toilets because they now understood where germs can be found, and that they have asked for soap dispensers and hand towels in the school toilets,”said Mr Abreu.
Mr Sheppard said the project was designed to help reduce the high rates of skin, ear, respiratory and diarrhoeal disease that Indigenous people suffer compared to non-Indigenous people.
“These infections contribute to high rates and early onset of chronic disease in adulthood and to the 17-year-gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” said Sheppard.
“The children get really excited when they meet the Pride players, and learn from them how important it is to look after your body.
“The session finishes with a question time of what they have learnt and to remember the importance of washing their hands, particularly before they eat.
“Also, if the children have little brothers or sisters, they can show them what they have learnt and help them wash their hands.
“This national award nomination is also thanks to the wonderful support and commitment we’ve had from schools and communities we have visited as part of the program.”
“The project has made a significant contribution towards addressing the high rates of infections among Indigenous people, and ultimately a step towards closing the gap in health disadvantages,” he said.
Mr Abreu said that before this program, there were no coordinated education programs actively used by EHWs to promote good personal hygiene in Queensland’s Indigenous communities.
“This is the first time a partnership approach such as this has been taken with a sporting team in Queensland to promote hygiene and the results speak for themselves,” he said.
Mr Sheppard and other members of the Take Pride team, with representatives from the Cairns Public Health Unit, plan to discuss the expansion of the program with NRL One Community and the QRL, as well as Federal and State Government representatives, so that all identified Indigenous communities in Queensland can benefit from this very successful model.
Northern Pride Named Runners Up
THE Take Pride Program and Cairns Public Health Unit were named the National Runner Up at the Indigenous Health Awards in Sydney on March 28. Well done to all involved with the initiative.