Selfless Service in Australia
Health in Kind (HIK) continues to operate out of four states of Australia - Western Australia (WA), Victoria (ViC), Queensland (QLD) and New South Wales (NSW) and so far, has had its biggest impact by partnering with other foundations and charities.
WA has continued with providing health care to migrant and refugee groups in partnership with CARAD and the Northlakes Senior Campus. COVID-19 restrictions prevented many of their usual activities, however, the group still managed to get out things like hygiene packs to those in need. Next year they are looking to also partner with the Nardine Wimmins refuge for women and children who have been victims of domestic violence (DV).
NSW continues their partnership with God’s Closet, providing health screenings including audiology, to families from disadvantaged backgrounds and have just begun being able to attend these events again. They also deliver essential vitamin packs to young mums and bubs.
In QLD the main focus point for HIK has been alongside the Toogoolawah School for boys who are mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds and who can no longer, for various reasons, attend mainstream schooling. This has been largely on hold due to the pandemic, but will resume again with the next school year.
In Victoria, the youth group continues the partnership with Vicseg who support refugee groups. The HIK team provides mobile outreach health services to those in need. This year, they have developed new partnerships with a local Rotary Group and Medical School which will open up more opportunities for projects in the New Year.
HIK also maintains its international partnership with the Sai Prema Foundation in Fiji (SPF). HIK supports three particular areas of SPF’s health service. One is providing health staff and donating health equipment for their Mobile Outreach Service which travels to rural villages to conduct medical camps. Another is providing specialist medical support to their free medical clinic, so far this has been psychiatric clinics and specialist paediatric nurse training; HIK is in the process of organising dermatology support to the clinic also. Thirdly, HIK has been supporting the building of the Children’s Heart Hospital that SPF is building in Suva. Hundreds of babies and children die every year in Fiji from congenital heart disease. It is a grossly under-recognised problem in Fiji, this hospital will be the first of its kind for the region that will save children’s lives not only in Fiji but also the South Pacific. The HIK group raised $1.8M to donate towards the hospital this year. This was brought about by the cooperation of many people and coordination across the four states. HIK is looking forward to return service to Fiji, once travel opens up again.
Regarding the HIK App:
A Health in Kind App seeks to simulate the same face to face provision of service via an App-based platform delivering compassionate health care in the form of health literacy. Aiming to reach those that are vulnerable in the community and/or those who struggle to access health services, an App platform provides the capacity to reach individuals in every corner of Australia. Given the worldwide changes brought by COVID-19, this form of delivery of health care is now even more pivotal for the Australian public.
Health in Kind has historically provided health care to vulnerable groups in the form of health education, health screening and health advocacy to financially disadvantaged, refugee and migrant groups. Broadly speaking, this can be seen as “health literacy”. This has been in line with key principles driving the service, namely addressing ‘gaps’ in the health service and providing it particularly to those most in need. There have been a number of barriers to expanding this service and to reaching groups in need. These include, but are not exclusive to, large geographical areas to cover availability of volunteers (many groups prefer working days when volunteers are not available); number of volunteers; stigma associated with asking for mental health support and medico-legal risks. An App would help address many of these barriers by providing safe, reliable information regardless of date or location and affording privacy and anonymity to the user.
Australia provides one of the best health services in the world, with free high quality health care available to all. However, studies show that an individual level of health literacy impacts significantly on the ability to access and effectively benefit from that care. Health literacy refers to a person’s ability to improve their health and well-being by making sound decisions about their health care. This is done via the ability to access and understand both health information and options for treatment; allowing individuals to navigate the health care system, make informed decisions on treatments and be able to follow instructions and advice, such as taking medications appropriately. The Australia Bureau of Statistics found the prevalence of low health literacy in Australian adults to be 60%. This means that the majority of Australians have reduced capacity to engage effectively with the health care provided to them. Estimates suggest people with low health literacy have 1.5-3 times greater chances of worsened health outcomes. The underlying access and equity issues worsen these estimates for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Australian Government recognises addressing health literacy as vital to improving health and quality of care.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (2018) carried out a survey on recommendations and regulations of smartphone Apps for health and wellness. They posited that consumers are increasingly turning to Apps to aid their health and treatment and that it is an area that is expected to grow. However, consumers want to find accurate information that they can trust. The survey found respondents trust NGOs (Non-Government Organisation) to provide sound advice about Apps, as well as GPs (General Practitioner) as their most trusted sources. So far most health and wellness Apps have not been developed specifically for the Australian system.
Currently, there does not appear to be any free health and wellness Apps run by doctors in Australia providing this type of service. The HIK App will be staffed entirely by accredited health professional volunteers that work with Health in Kind. In line with all Health In Kind services, the App will not be providing emergency or crises responses, consultations, investigations or treatments. Users over the age of 16 will be able to sign into the App by first agreeing to terms and conditions.