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HealthSpeak A publication of North Coast NSW Medicare Local

Yuraygir National Park

In the arch of the North Coast NSW Medicare Local footprint page 4 2

Introducing HealthSpeak


Evolution of a magazine


Health promotion priorities


A crusader for men’s mental health

Introducing HealthSpeak Janet Grist Editor

Hello and welcome to a special mini preview issue of north coast medicare local’s new HealthSpeak magazine. the magazine will be available in printed form and on our website ( and

A message from the CEO

will be an important platform for discussion on health and wellbeing topics of all kinds. we are keen to provide our audience with ‘a good read’ and would welcome story ideas on particular health professionals or issues of interest to the health care community. Health workers who would like to contribute to HealthSpeak, or provide readers with information about the health services they offer, are invited to contact me on (02) 6622 4453 or email me at:

Vahid Saberi Chief Executive Officer

GPSpeak expands and evolves into HealthSpeak Andrew Binns Clinical Editor

For tHe paSt 20 yearS the northern rivers Gp network has successfully published GPSpeak, a bi-monthly magazine which kept medical practitioners and other clinicians, as well as many interested readers in the broader community, up to date on local medical issues. the good news is that GPSpeak is about to be expanded, in line with the recently formed north coast medicare local (ncml), and will become a new magazine called HealthSpeak. It will be launched in august and is sure to become essential reading for all regional health professionals and members of the general public who have an involvement in health care in the ncml footprint. HealthSpeak will also be of interest to our mainstream media.

editorial content for HealthSpeak will be sought from ncml member organisations as well as other major players in the health system. ncml’s role is to coordinate a wide range of programs and it is important that health workers and the general public are well informed about its initiatives and activities. one example is the arrangements for after hours Gp access. there are gaps in the current after hours services that need addressing, and the task of identify-

around the region to address these issues. the aim is to find the resources for a better coordinated service. From this July, under a new commonwealth program, patients can apply to have their medical history placed on a confi-

Palliative Care is an area that needs capacity building in access equity and levels of service ing these and finding solutions to improve the situation are already underway. palliative care is another area that needs capacity building in terms of access equity and levels of service. ncml has already begun a consultation process with health workers and volunteers

dential personally controlled electronic health record (pceHr). this is aimed at improving the efficiency of transferring medical information to designated health providers, particularly for those with chronic disease. the ncml will promote this concept and assist patients and

Gps to implement the processes involved. many of the community services that have been hospital based will become more primary care focused, keeping the management of people with chronic disease as home-based as possible. this “medical Home” concept will be a team approach, with Gps and allied health professionals working together with patients and their families and carers. these are exciting and challenging times for the australian health care industry, both public and private, and everyone – clinicians and the broader community – can only benefit from a good flow of timely and accurate information. that is why HealthSpeak will also have a strong online presence, enabling easy (and free) web access.

HealthSpeak magazine contacts:

Display and classified advertising at attractive rates.

Editor: Janet Grist Ph: 6622 4453 Email:

HealthSpeak to be published four times a year by North Coast NSW Medicare Local. Articles appearing in HealthSpeak do not necessarily reflect the views of NCML. The NCML accepts no responsiblity for the accuracy of any information, advertisements or opinions contained in this magazine.

Clinical Editor: Andrew Binns Email:


tHere IS no maGazIne on the north coast like HealthSpeak! the story of HealthSpeak is like any other inspiring story. a newsletter starts from modest beginnings, some very committed and visionary individuals persist through thick and thin, the newsletter turns into a magazine, goes from strength to strength and then reaches a point where it morphs into a new being – that is where we are now. HealthSpeak will cover the full range of primary health care services and providers. It will tell you about services and providers doing health literacy and health promotion, the excellent work of allied health practitioners (phys-

iotherapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, pharmacy, psychology, social work and other supplementary services), the innovative work of Gps and the sacrificial efforts of volunteers, carers and more. HealthSpeak is a very effective way of connecting practitioners and disseminating relevant information about the care that is being given. the magazine will create opportunities for learning, networking and sharing ideas. For HealthSpeak to be really effective it needs the engagement and support of practitioners. you need to tell us about your work, your story – making HealthSpeak your voice. north coast medicare local is fully committed to HealthSpeak. It will do all it can to ensure the success of this magazine. your support is essential in achieving this. I do hope that you will embrace this magazine as your own and contribute to it.

Copyright 2012 North Coast Medicare Local Magazine designed by Graphiti Design Studio Printed by Quality Plus Printers Ballina


Super Clinic plans taking shape dr dIane BlanckenSee’S career has entered an exciting new phase where she and two other local Gps, who successfully tendered for the Gp Super clinic at tweed Heads, are busy planning a state of the art multidisciplinary practice. “It will allow many disciplines under one roof – pathology, radiology, pharmacy and dental services. one of my passions is training and it’s exciting to have a large area to train the next generation of Gps, nurses and allied health professionals,” said diane. working as a Gp gives diane much satisfaction, with tremendous work variety and intellectual challenges. “I also get to care for patients and their families over a long period of time – sometimes I will look after four generations of the one family,” she said. after studying medicine at Queensland University, diane was sent to mt Isa in her second year after graduation. “It was full of miners and cowboys but it taught me clinical self-reliance and introduced me to my future husband, a vet.” She missed out on the position of medical Superintendent at cloncurry because the hospital board was dominated by conservative,

Dr Austin Sterne and Dr Di Blanckensee looking at the South Tweed GP Super Clinic plans.

elderly graziers not ready to accept a female doctor. But the glass ceiling for women in medicine is fast disappearing. when diane underwent a recent cholecystectomy it was an all female affair – surgeon, assistant and anaesthetist. the late 1980s and early 1990s were spent raising three daughters and living overseas. diane has many fascinating tales from this time. Her first overseas posting was in the United arab emirates, inland from dubai. diane worked at the hospital’s multidisciplinary

clinic which opened from 8am to 11pm seven days a week. She was dealing with a population coping with rapid new wealth which brought with it chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis. “the very old people (50 years!) were wiry and relatively healthy. the middle aged were morbidly obese, having gorged themselves on sugary foods, and not crossing the street without driving their mercedes, suffered the consequences of excess. Hopefully, the young adults have benefited from the massive education program that followed the 1991 Gulf war,” diane explained. when she’s not working, diane, a selfconfessed Bluesfest tragic, enjoys dancing, and hanging out with friends. She is looking forward to working with north coast medicare local to improve community health. “over the past 18 years I have seen a marked improvement in health services and I often tell patients how lucky we are. But we can do better. we need to focus on better co-ordination of services and better communication of patient information. In five to 10 years I hope to see some real improvements,” she said.

Easy changes make a big difference

Eat more vegetables, a salad before a meal or a vege soup, suggests Jillian.

nUtrItIonISt JIllIan adams is passionate about preventing disease and helping people stay healthy through a well-balanced diet and physical exercise. Since december Jillian has been acting manager, Health promotions, for north coast nSw local Health district and she has some common bad health habits in her sights. “the most startling one is the fact that 86% of us don’t eat HealthSpeak

enough vegetables and that alone has huge health implications. It’s amazing that we don’t give eating sufficient vegetables any more prominence than it has. “It is really important and ties in with the incidence of cancers, heart disease, overweight and obesity, and with any gastro-intestinal problem,” said Jillian Jillian believes focusing on easy to make changes is the best way to change habits.

“we all have to start thinking when we sit down to eat – where are the vegetables? the French eat a simple salad or a vegetable soup before a meal, why don’t we do that? why aren’t we thinking about tomatoes on toast for breakfast and after school snacks made up of raw vegetables?” she asked. In her new role, another priority health issue is aboriginal smoking. “I really want to make a difference in the short term as currently the aboriginal smoking rate is at 34%, which is very high.” Jillian is looking forward to running some joint programs to make an impact on Indigenous smoking rates and is working with aboriginal medical Services to develop and run programs she believes will work. other health priorities for the Health promotions unit include falls prevention, tobacco, over weight and alcohol harm minimisation. Jillian started her career as a clinical dietitian working with diabetes and in a clinical hospital

in melbourne. She travelled to london and worked in private practice there and then in a health farm located in a gorgeous old manor house. after some years in grey england, Jillian and her husband duncan looked at a map and decided that the northern rivers of nSw had to have the best climate of anywhere. and it just so happened that there was a new position as community nutritionist with the north coast area Health service. She was pleased to be able to combine her clinical background in healthy eating and diet with disease prevention, her big interest. In her new role, Jillian is also delighted to have received substantial commonwealth funding to run the Healthy children’s Initiative. She’s excited at the prospect of getting 80% of primary schools and child care centres enrolled in the program. “It is going to have big effects on children’s physical activity and healthy eating,” she said with a smile. 3

Walking the talk in Lifestyle Medicine “I’ve never done health training like this before. And I’m hungry for more.”

By Andrew Binns accordInG to tHe australian Institute of Health and welfare, lifestyle-related chronic diseases (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers etc) make up around 70% of all primary care consultations. But how are health professionals learning to deal with this? It would seem that teaching lifestyle medicine in a classroom is akin to teaching about the wilderness in a zoo. at least this is the principle adopted by Southern cross University (ScU). the university’s Health and Human Sciences department has decided that ‘edu-venture, ‘ continuing professional development (cpd) learning – combining education with related real life adventures is more likely to be effective than classroom teaching. that was the basis of a recent four- day walk down the clarence council’s famed yuraygir walk from yamba to red rock. combining walking one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world, with educa-

Garry Egger creating ripples for Lifestyle Medicine

tional sessions, a mixed group of health professionals gained cpd points while enjoying a medical training experience. the group of 15, including Gps, psychologists, practice nurses, natural health specialists completed the 70km trek while interacting with two leading exponents in lifestyle-based causes of chronic disease. professor Garry egger, of ‘GutBusters’ fame, convenes a

post-graduate program in clinical sciences (lifestyle medicine) at ScU and professor Stephen myers is the head of evidence Based complementary medicine at ScU and a medically trained natural health expert. the team was augmented along the way by dr Hans wolmoth, a prominent plant phytocognisist from ScU’s School of environmental Sciences, who explained the botany of the area

and the scientific and medicinal basis of native plant foods. “I give it 11 out of 10”, said canberra-based Gp dr andrew morris, who focuses specifically on lifestyle-related causes of disease. “I’ve never done any health training like this before. and now I’m hungry for more.” participants came from as far away as perth and adelaide to be part of the program, which is likely to become a regular feature on the University calendar. as clinical editor of this new north coast medicare local publication, I felt it my duty to walk the talk and test the waters. I can say I’m definitely not sorry I got out of the surgery for a while to do so.

Breaking new ground in mental health retIred port macQUarIe businessman mort Shearer is not putting his feet up. Instead, he’s part of a syndicate applying to secure the tender for the city’s first Headspace, a national youth mental health foundation. His interest in young people follows a strong commitment to help stem the incidence of male suicide as the former head of the australian men’s Shed association. “men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder while doing other things,” said mort, who is now the director of the Hastings men’s Shed at port macquarie. “the sheds are good for men because they offer activities and purpose in the company of other men.” mort believes that providing a space for men to tinker with tools is helping to reduce the incidence of male suicide in australia. “men tend to get their social connections from their work or from their female partner’s group. But if the family breaks up, their partner dies, or men retire or are made redundant, they often become isolated because men are not good social animals. after his retirement 10 years ago and thanks 4

Mort Shearer

to his business skills, mort became involved in developing a model for community-based Suicide prevention networks and started a number of these in nSw before turning his attention to men’s Sheds as a practical way of attacking the issue. mr Shearer has no formal health training, but has received strong support and mentoring from a range of health professionals and academics, such as Southern cross University’s associate professor rick van der zwan, professor John macdonald of the University of western Sydney and associate professor

The men’s sheds offer activities and purpose in the company of other men. Barry Golding from Ballarat University. associate professor van der zwan praised mr Shearer’s grassroots approach. “mort is one of the most amazing men I ever have met. “He’s committed to the idea that discussions about mental health should be part of normal discourse and without stigma,” he said. mort Shearer’s next focus is young people as he waits to hear whether his syndicate wins the tender to run the mid north coast’s new Headspace centre aimed at 12 to 25 year olds. HealthSpeak

HealthSpeak - preview  

HealthSpeak A publication of North Coast NSW Medicare Local - mini preview edition

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