AMS Profile: Albury Wodonga

AMS of the Week: Busy health service caters for all ages

This week’s Aboriginal Medical Service of the week is the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS). AWAHS is a non-profit organisation that was set up to cater for the health care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families. They are passionate about delivering innovative programs for people of all ages. Albury and Wodonga are thriving border-cities on the banks of the majestic Murray River. The area has a population of about 85,000, of which 2% (1815) are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. Health Promotions officer at AWAHS, Selina Clark says it is a busy health service, with over 4000 clients on its books.

The Aboriginal community of Albury Wodonga is made up of over 50 different language groups. The Albury Wodonga area has been a designated Aboriginal resettlement area since the late 1960’s. Since then, the local Aboriginal community had lobbied various governments for the establishment of a community owned Aboriginal Health Service. In August 2009 the AWAHS officially opened its new building.

The AWAHS has a skilled and experienced medical team of general practitioners to cover all aspects of clinical care including: child and adolescent health, adult physical and mental health (encompassing acute and chronic illness and illness prevention), acute healthcare, as well as orthopaedics and minor surgery, and antenatal care in partnership with the Albury Wodonga Health Wodonga Obstetrics Unit.

The Nursing team at AWAHS support the medical team and offer a wide range of services to service the community. These include but are not limited to: child and adult health checks, triage, chronic condition management, smoking cessation – QUIT Program, immunisations, women’s health, midwifery, diabetes support and education, wound care, and home visits. According to Selina, chronic diseases such as diabetes are prevalent in the area, but the service is well set up to cater for these diseases, as well as culturally specific issues in the area. “Our service offers speciality services in chronic disease management including a chronic disease nurse, support worker, diabetes educator, podiatrist and dietician.

We also have a Social and Emotional Wellbeing team (SEWB) that offers counselling services in alcohol and other drugs, mental health and Stolen Generations,” Selina says. The AWAHS runs many innovative programs for families and young people as well. “We ran a ‘Bran Nue Me, Better Your Health’ and fitness program as a pilot program in July 2010 with seven participants completing a six-month exercise program and funding by Wagga ICC. From this pilot program, we partnered up with Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation and ran a six-week exercise programs with Hume Health and Fitness Centre and Wodonga Leisure Centre.

This program was funded by Indigenous Sport and Recreation and also coincided with the Keep Healthy Keep Moving Project at Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation. “Participants in the program had to complete a contract with their doctor that also stated their commitment to the program and attendance of three sessions per week or 18 sessions for the six-week program. This program was flexible and offered gym and pool memberships, cooking sessions, referrals to allied health services including dietician, diabetes educator and quit smoking classes. It catered for the whole family. This program finished in July 2012 and had an over 100 participants,” she says. “Another program – the Boorai Bumps, Mums and Bubs Program runs driving lessons with the Hume Driving School for parents who have their learner driver. We are also running a Tuning Into Kids Program, which is an emotionally intelligent parenting program targeted at parents of children who are in primary school.

With any courses that the Boorai Bumps Program runs for parents – the children are linked in with a local childcare provider.” The AWAHS also has a modern and sophisticated dental clinic providing dental services to Aboriginal patients referred under Medicare Chronic disease scheme, expecting mothers under Boorai Smiles programmes, those ages between 12-17 years who have a teen dental voucher and to any Aboriginal person having acute dental pain. Allied Health professionals regularly visit the AWAHS and offer a helpful range of services throughout the week including: podiatry, speech therapy, Dietician, Diabetes Education, Psychology and Optometry. The AWAHS offers outreach services with the Chronic Disease and Mums and Bubs Programs. An Aboriginal Men’s Shed has also opened up behind the site and the men meet every Monday and Tuesday from 9-3pm.

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