Community driven solutions and their effectiveness in the prevention of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) was a key focus of a Churchill Fellowship undertaken by Danila Dilba’s Maida Stewart.
Maida (pictured above) travelled to Auckland Aotearoa, New Zealand’s North Island, to investigate healthy housing strategies aimed at reducing risk factors associated with ARF .
Maida, who is an Aboriginal Health Practitioner and now heads up Danila Dilba’s continuous quality improvement, has witnessed firsthand the impact of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease on communities in the Northern Territory.
“Young people have a greater risk of getting this disease, and all too often we see them going off for surgery to repair or replace one or more of their heart valves,” Maida said.
“Those who go on to develop complications from recurring episodes of ARF, known as Rheumatic Heart Disease, have an average life expectancy of forty years old.
“Sadly, many of us have also witnessed some of our young people dying from the complications of this disease, and the catastrophic affect that these avoidable deaths have on our families and communities.”
Maida said the Healthy Homes Initiative she looked at in Aotearoa aimed to improve housing standards, living conditions, and reduce household crowding as a way of reducing the likelihood of Acute Rheumatic Fever occurring in Maori and Pasifika communities.
“The initiative used innovative solutions looking at what could be done immediately to improve household living conditions and standards,” she said.
“The solutions were family and community led, low cost, high impact and fit-for-purpose. Simple things like mould removal kits, draft stoppers and bubble wrap as extra glazing for windows were all affordable and accessible to everybody.”
The effectiveness of the initiative highlighted that families and communities were often best placed to come up with their own solutions because they are living with the problem every day.
Maida said the Northern Territory could also learn from this approach.
“Using innovation and human centred co-design principles meant that Maori and Pasifika had ‘buy in’ for the solutions, policies and programs that would directly affect their lives and communities,” she said.
“I learnt that there are effective solutions that can be implemented right now to make our homes healthier. This problem is not completely beyond our control and there is no reason that we can’t look to similar solutions to help prevent ARF and RHD in our communities in the Northern Territory and across Australia.”
To read Maida’s full report visit https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/projects-and-fellows/?toggle=fellow