Improving and Integrating Urban Indigenous Health Services

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Urban Eyes

In September, the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Deception Bay Clinic, and Moreton ATSICHS partnered with the Indigenous Eye Health Unit (Minum Barreng) at The University of Melbourne and the Indigenous Hip Hop Project (IHHP) to create the music video, ‘Urban Eyes’.

‘Urban Eyes’, featuring guitarist and NAIDOC Youth of the Year, Chris Tamwoy, focuses on the link between diabetes and eye health in Indigenous communities, and encourages community members with diabetes to protect their eyesight by getting a yearly eye check.

The project was completed within a week, and on the last day of filming we caught up with some of the people who contributed to the video, most of whom were local elders from the Moreton region’s ‘Work it Out’ program.

The group worked closely with IHHP, gathering ideas for the lyrics and the look of the video, recording the song, and filming on location.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Uncle Merve. “But it’s been really good, and it’s for a good cause.”

For Auntie Paula, “The best part of shooting the video was being at the beach.”

“And being in the studio, recording our parts.” said Auntie Kaye. “I was a bit nervous at first but [Indigenous Hip Hop Projects] made me feel at ease. We formed really good relationships with them. It was really fun.”

For Uncle Merve, it was the chance to catch up with people from all over the Moreton region. “Having everybody get together to share stories, and share meals. I’ve seen people I haven’t seen for years. It’s been really great.”

The IHHP crew are also putting together a short behind-the-scenes documentary that captures the process shared by the community that made ‘Urban Eyes’ possible.

“We’re big on process,” said Carol Wynne, of Melbourne University’s Indigenous Eye Health Unit. “For us, it’s all about the relationships you build in the lead-up. When the relationships are strong, participant engagement is strong.”

“These videos will be used in education, they’ll be played in clinic waiting rooms, people will show their families, and yes,” she laughed, “we’re hoping they go viral!”

Indigenous Hip Hop Projects were a natural fit for this series, because they focus on working with young people, developing on their strengths and skills. This is particularly relevant to diabetes, according to Carol. “Diabetes is affecting people younger and younger each year.”

The elders agreed that the key to good health is education, and saw ‘Urban Eyes’ as a fun way to encourage people to take control of their health.

“I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” said Uncle Robert. “Why speculate if you don’t participate? It’s important for elders to be involved, because it’s our responsibility to teach the young people.” Robert is 73. Since retiring, he’s been active in ‘Work it Out’, and saw participating in the project as a great way to spread the messages of the program. He credits his good health to avoiding sugar, working hard, and looking after his family. “When I was younger, I never wanted to go near doctors. Most men don’t. But when I learned more about health, through ‘Work it Out’, I got healthier.”

Last year, IUIH’s ‘Work it Out’ program received the ‘National Lead Clinicians Group’ award for excellence in the innovative implementation of clinical practice. “‘Work it Out’ is great,” said Uncle Merve. “I’ve stayed with it for over a year, because of the incentives. I exercise, go to cooking classes, healthcare classes, and I’ve got a few of these ‘Deadly Choice’s jerseys.”

The project was a whirlwind—the community began brainstorming lyrics ideas on Monday, and finished filming for ‘Urban Eyes’ on Thursday afternoon. Would they do it again? You bet.

“Heart disease, and healthy eating,” said Uncle Merve. “We’ve got heaps of ideas for music videos ready to go.”

“Blood pressure, dialysis, strokes…” added Auntie Paula.

“Yes! Strokes. That’s important.”

The elders agreed that ‘Urban Eyes’ was a fantastic way to share their knowledge with other Indigenous people. Lisa Penrose, IUIH’s regional optometrist agrees.

“This message was created by the community, for the community. The loss of one’s sight is one of the biggest fears people have, so conveying the message that regular eye checks are available is essential. What better way to do it than with this deadly song and video?”

“To see the involvement from so many community members of all different ages during the week was just amazing. The atmosphere at the launch was electric, and to see the audience erupt in loud approval throughout the entire video truly reflected the entire process,” she said. “Teamwork, creativity, connectedness, commitment—the list of attributes displayed over the last week by all participants, young and elders, is endless, but at the end of the day, the final product, the video speaks for itself.” Want to see for yourself? Take a look!

Want to know more about ‘Work it Out’ and eye health?

Regular eye exams are important to maintain good vision, prevent eye disease and treat eye conditions. Good eye health is an essential part of health care for all adults and children, especially for adults with diabetes.

Eye Health services include:

  • comprehensive eye health screening and assessment by a qualified optometrist
  • access to a range of free glasses; low vision aids and vision therapy if required
  • information about maintaining good eye and vision health
  • referral to specialist ophthalmology services if laser or cataract surgery is required

These services are currently available from the following clinics (either in clinic or in the mobile eye health van).

  • Kalwun – Bilinga
  • Kambu – Goodna, Ipswich and Laidley
  • ATSICHS – Gabba, Logan, Acacia Ridge, Northgate, and Browns Plains
  • Moreton ATSICHS – Strathpine, Morayfield, Deception Bay and Caboolture
  • YBB – Capalaba, North Stradbroke

The eye health van also visits community days and other special events to provide information on eye health care and disease prevention.

Work It Out is a free education and exercise program that helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic conditions to cope, take part in everyday activities and live a healthy lifestyle. Participants are referred to the program by their doctor.