“Bringing chiropractic to Durri” Embedding a chiropractic program into an existing Indigenous community health service and evaluation of the impact of the program.
In the early to mid 1990s, at the request of Indigenous Elders, members of HANDS-ON-HEALTH AUSTRALIA travelled to Brewarinna, NSW. Here they provided treatment for muscle and joint pain, health promotion focussing on musculoskeletal health and healthy eating and self-help muscle pain techniques for the local Indigenous Community. Elders also participated in the program and introduced traditional healing approaches to healing including the preparation and use of bush-medicines. Community Elders spoke of the need for HANDS-ON-HEALTH AUSTRALIA and the Indigenous Community to speak the language of the policy makers in order to help make positive changes for the Indigenous Community. They encouraged one of our members to pursue research – in the area of public health and health promotion.
This encouragement led Dein Vindigni to undertake a PhD in Health Promotion at the University of Newcastle. His research was conducted with the Indigenous Community in Kempsey. Dein examined the prevalence of muscle and joint conditions within the Indigenous Community in Kempsey. In summary this study found that the Indigenous Community suffered significant muscle and joint pain that frequently involved more than one spinal region. Indigenous people had few options for treatment and although they suffered significant pain and disability, they tended to just put up with the pain. The consequence of this lack of action is chronic pain and disability and increased risk of aggravating other degenerative conditions so prevalent in this Community – including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity.
Based on these findings the Community Advisory Group recommended that:
1. Non-drug health care alternatives be provided for the Indigenous Community in Kempsey
2. Indigenous people receive training in therapeutic approaches that would allow them to care for their own Community.
These recommendations have been used by HANDS-ON-HEALTH AUSTRALIA since 2004 to provide a chiropractic service for Kempsey and to search for ways to build sustainability of this service and to empower the local Community through the provision of training programs in therapeutic massage.
Volunteer chiropractors travel to Kempsey to provide chiropractic services within the Indigenous Health services. Community Elders advised that their people were unlikely to access chiropractic services that were not part of the local Indigenous health system. HANDS-ON-HEALTH AUSTRALIA relied on volunteers and grants from the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia to cover the travel costs for chiropractors to travel to Kempsey (from Taree and Sydney).
In the mean time, other members of HANDS-ON-HEALTH AUSTRALIA have designed and implemented an evaluation of the effectiveness of the chiropractic service for the Indigenous Community. This evaluation was and remains critical to ensure that a) the chiropractic service remains sensitive to the needs of the Indigenous Community and b) that the service is both effective and safe for the Community.