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New England pharmacies to receive Aboriginal Health Workers through Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation grant

A pilot program to improve health outcomes for First Nations peoples will launch in the New England region, with $70,000 of seed funding from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

The HealthWISE project will see Aboriginal Health Workers integrated into pharmacies in Tamworth and Gunnedah with the aim of reducing cultural barriers to health literacy and healthcare, and supporting people to understand and use medication effectively.

With Australian Government data highlighting that Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are five times more likely to die from chronic disease before the age of 75 than other Australians and with strengthening cultural safety in health care settings a key action in the 2024 Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, the HealthWISE program is a community led, practical solution with potential to immediately make a difference.

Sally Urquhart, HealthWISE Executive Manager of Strategy said that the idea that came from the local community and hadn’t yet been tested in Australia.

“Pharmacists and Aboriginal Health Workers working in tandem in pharmacies are likely to have a huge range of benefits for clients and health professionals,” she said.

Introducing our Aboriginal Health Practitioners...

Amelia Williams

Amelia Williams is a dedicated Aboriginal Health Practitioner with a passion for creating equitable opportunities in the field. As a team member at HealthWISE, her day-to-day activities include managing chronic disease clinics, conducting healthy aging exercise groups, handling clinic data and more. Amelia also provides transportation services for clients attending medical appointments and delivers health education sessions, such as eye clinics and oral health talks, in local schools.

Amelia’s commitment to culturally safe practice is rooted in the respect she learned from her upbringing. She actively listens to clients without interruption, ensuring they feel secure and understood. When interacting with individuals at the pharmacy, she tailors her communication to their level of understanding, fostering a safe and supportive environment.

Driven by a desire to reach underserved populations, Amelia focuses on those who may not regularly seek medical care. She strives to make them feel acknowledged, heard, and assisted, especially those who are less visible within the community. Amelia leverages her skills to positively impact trust-building and enhance health outcomes. Her dedication to community engagement extends beyond traditional healthcare settings, empowering clients to explore additional services like the pharmacy.

Chris Southwell

Chris Southwell is an Aboriginal Health Practitioner and care coordinator at HealthWISE. With a commitment to their wellbeing, Chris ensures that patients not only receive quality care but also understand their health journey. She will be part of the upcoming Aboriginal Health Worker in Pharmacy pilot program.

Chris eagerly anticipates the program’s impact, ensuring that Aboriginal people receive the quality health care they deserve. She recognises that patients may lack awareness of the impact of their conditions or the significance of terms like “chronic.” In a fast-paced health industry, Chris prioritises active listening during initial consultations. By understanding patients’ complete medical history, she tailors her approach to meet their unique needs.

Her approach involves taking the time to explain medical conditions thoroughly, ensuring clarity and reducing stress. Chris champions the idea that informed patients are better equipped to manage new and existing diagnoses.

n by a desire to reach underserved populations, Amelia focuses on those who may not regularly seek medical care. She strives to make them feel acknowledged, heard, and assisted, especially those who are less visible within the community. Amelia leverages her skills to positively impact trust-building and enhance health outcomes. Her dedication to community engagement extends beyond traditional healthcare settings, empowering clients to explore additional services like the pharmacy.

Vicki Gardener

Vicki Gardener became an Aboriginal Health Practitioner to help her community, inspired by her experiences supporting her grandfather through cancer treatment and wishing she could do more for her grandmother. These personal challenges instilled a strong desire in her to be able to assist others.

At HealthWISE, Vicki’s daily tasks are diverse, ranging from helping clients with appointments and transporting them to conducting observations like blood pressure and glucose tests. She also communicates with doctors, chemists, and specialists, and supports clients during their medical visits. Her approach ensures culturally safe practice by listening respectfully to clients and creating a comfortable environment for them to express themselves.

Vicki looks forward to seeing a variety of people at the pharmacy, especially those who don’t regularly see a doctor. She aims to guide them towards better health, discuss medications, and link them to HealthWISE programs. Excited to reach those who might not usually seek help, Vicki is eager to learn and apply new skills to better serve her community.

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