1. How has this been initiated?

We are a team of experienced people united in the desire to listen and learn and respond to the needs of Indigenous communities about RHD. We are honoured to be invited to these communities across Australia and to be able to take action on the ground and support with education, upskilling local community members, early detection of and treatment of RHD.  

Our experience working in the communities is that they are asking for support and that there is a desire for as much assistance as possible so they can resolve these health issues.

As this project has progressed, we’ve had significant engagement with local communities and health care providers. 

2. Why is the Trek taking place?

  •    RHD is a serious health justice issue causing devastation and disruption in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It’s destroying lives through ongoing injections, surgeries, death and the impacts of these deaths
  •    We are presented with an unprecedented opportunity now – we have Aboriginal leadership, community demand, collective goodwill and an evidence base detailed in the RHD Endgame Strategy to support the work that can eradicate this disease
  •    Leading cardiologists have put aside the time  to concentrate on working with Indigenous communities, and they are committed to ensure Aboriginal empowerment and self-determination
  •    We will collectively work together so that the positive actions of today will be felt by the next generation, and for generations after that. It is unconscionable to let suffering when we can do something about it

3. What activities will be delivered?

Each Community are provided with an invitation outlining the Trek and will select the activities that suit their needs. 

Activities on offer:

  •    Education, activity and movie sessions for community, health workers and schools on RHD and acute rheumatic fever
  •    Skin awareness day – to understand skin sores, scabies and their link to RHD
  •    Cardiology clinics for children at school – to treat the disease
  •    Heart checks for children – echocardiographic (echo) screening to detect RHD early (limited availability)
  •    Meet The Council – to discuss how to prevent RHD in each community

After the Trek – post care and follow up:

  •    All medical treatments and diagnoses will be documented and followed up and where necessary, treatment to be given
  •    Post-visit, full community feedback to all key stakeholders is guaranteed. Normal clinical relationship will be continued

4. What measures will be taken for COVID-19?

  •    Doctors and trek participants will strictly follow COVID-19 guidelines in each jurisdiction, including health protocols, testing and vaccinations. Flexible to follow Health Department advice
  •     There will be consultation with communities and Health Departments to ensure that competing messages, vaccination clinics and timing are handled in a way that prioritises the COVID-19 response
  •     Being responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Protocols
  •     The trek will diverge if there are vaccinations taking place in the intended Community

5. How have the places and communities been chosen?

  •    Communities that are on the tour path, and suspected to have a medium to high burden of disease and have registered their interest. Some of these communities have limited access to medical facilities and clinicians
  •    A Community Invitation is being sent to a few communities we think may be interested, with a returnable form for them to advise which activities they would like some support. We also have a community consultant reaching out to communities
  •    There will be rigour around community selection and approach, including many layers of consultation with each community prior to confirming a visit, including with Land Councils, Traditional Owners, RHDChampions4Change, Schools and Health Clinics
  •    We have a set of principals we are adhering to

6. What is the impact on communities?

Short to medium term:

Offering communities along the journey the opportunity for:

  •    Increased awareness and education of RHD amongst communities, as well as nationally
  •    Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of RHD – treatment will occur within 24-48 hours for anyone that needs it. When identified – family consultation, letter to paediatrician
  •    Early detection – echo screenings of children’s hearts where communities request it 
  •    Training some local health workers on echo screening – building local capacity, empowering communities, educating, up-skilling and opening-up career pathways
  •    Direct access to medical professionals
  •    Enabling self-determination and empowerment of the community – communities decide what they need
  •    Local voices and needs will be elevated to Land Councils, the media and to Government, where appropriate

Longer term outcomes:

Ending RHD, Health Justice, National funding rolled out to enable local programs to flourish

7. How will you ensure consent from communities and individuals?

  •    Every action and deliverable on this Trek is with the pro active approach of: ensuring self-determination, empowerment, respect, cultural safety, community engagement adhering to all cultural protocols
  •    We have a dedicated Aboriginal Community Consultant who is working with communities – traditional owners, Land Councils, schools, clinics, RHD Champions
  •    And we are working with the RHD Control Program teams to ensure we reach the right people in community
  •    Information about the final activities will be distributed in advance

8. Who is funding this Trek?

  •    The doctors and associated teams of health workers, scientists are all generously doing all of this work voluntarily. 
  •    Equipment offered: 1) Four echo machines (one from QLD Children’s Hospital, two from NT Cardiac, one from Cairns Base Hospital) have been loaned for echo screening 2) Ten hand-held echo machines given by Humpty Dumpty Foundation
  •    The Snow Foundation is offering the resourcing and funding of the project management, community consultation, risk assessment, communications, story-telling and some PR, pro bono plus additional funding  
  •    The NT Government is contributing some funding to vehicle hire
  •    For the QLD component, the Queensland Children’s Hospital Foundation are supporting the Trek with a rural scholarship via the FNQ Foundation and Dr. Ben Reeves. This is fantastic support for the project and will underwrite some of the work planned in Queensland (eg. Ultrasound teaching) and subsidise other segments of the Trek
  •    Plus additional pro bono time from all individuals on the project team, all cardiologists and health workers, Moonshine/Take Heart, RHDAustralia and The Snow Foundation