Community,  Health

Kelso Indigenous Diabetes Clinic

Marathon Health Indigenous Chronic Disease Clinic in Kelso, NSW, is a multidisciplinary clinic providing a range of health services to Indigenous patients.

The clinic, funded through the Rural Doctor’s Network, has been serving the community for seven years and has 100 active clients at any given time.

“We have alternating services come each fortnight. So one week we’ll have a dietician, diabetes educator, exercise physiologist and a case worker here, and then the next week we will have the exercise physiologist back again, but a podiatrist, a psychologist and an endocrinologist possibly once a month as well,” explains Marathon Health Primary Health Service Manager Shellie Burgess.

This multidisciplinary approach to managing chronic disease means that patient education is a focus.

“In terms of chronic disease, education makes up a massive component of what you’re doing. “So whether it’s the exercise physiologist trying to educate them on some gentle walking programs or things like that. Or the dietitian on certainly nutritional advice for them and their family.

The educational approach is one that patient Laurie Crawford finds highly effective.

“The beauty of the clinic and the services they offer, it’s not only just about preventative measures, but it’s a lot to do with education, and educating people on how to actually look after and control their diabetes,” says Laurie.

“And that’s the thing I find the most rewarding, is the education side of it, and being able to point me in the right direction of making sure that I’m doing the right thing,” he says.

Laurie is a man who appreciates the power of education.

A self-professed late starter to the teaching profession, Laurie was the first qualified Indigenous infants teacher west of the Blue Mountains. After 18 years teaching in Eglinton, Laurie moved on to Charles Sturt University and spent around 22 years

lecturing future teachers, earning his doctorate in education along the way.

“Education is the key to our future for everyone, not just for Indigenous people, but for everyone. “And education is not only just about reading, writing and arithmetic. When you look at education from an Indigenous perspective, it covers all this stuff- our spiritual world, our health, our well-being, our mental health; it encompasses everything,” Laurie explains.

The holistic approach to managing diabetes has been hugely beneficial for Laurie who has had issues in the past keeping his condition under control.

“It’s (the Clinic) certainly kept me on track, well and truly. My diabetes has sort of been bouncing around all over the place… one of my difficulties is just trying to stabilize it. And that’s why I’m sort of fairly regular out here, to talk to the service providers, and to help me try to stabilize it,” he explains.

“I must say, you know, they’ve done a wonderful job because I feel quite fine – fit and healthy,” he says.

Another big part of the work at the Clinic is making patients feel comfortable so that they will return and continue to receive the support and treatment they need. Consistency is an important factor for patients managing a chronic condition.

“I think it’s really important that we’re putting lots of effort into developing and designing our services to be really, really culturally safe for people who identify as being Aboriginal,” explains Shellie.

“People feel really comfortable to come and see our clinicians,” she says.

From Laurie’s perspective, the Clinic is well and truly achieving this goal.

“Before the Kelso Clinic was set up I sort of had nowhere to go and I was just floundering around… they put the clinic in place and that solved all my problems. I was able to come here now. And I had a place to come now and to be able to talk to someone and that sort of thing,” he says.