Tropical health HOT topic at forum

Alexander ScottNorth West Telegraph
HOT North Presentors Yarlalu Thomas, Adriane Houghton, Elaine Clifton with Telethon Kids Institute Director Jonathan Carapetis.
Camera IconHOT North Presentors Yarlalu Thomas, Adriane Houghton, Elaine Clifton with Telethon Kids Institute Director Jonathan Carapetis. Credit: Alexander Scott

The health of people living in the North West was discussed at a key forum in Port Hedland recently involving national and local experts in the field.

The Improving Health Outcomes in the Tropical North meeting on June 25-26 was part of a collaboration between the Telethon Kids Institute and the Pilbara Aboriginal Health Forum.

Known as HOT North, the four-year program funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council brings together researchers from eight organisations, including Menzies School of Health Research.

Experts discussed issues critical to addressing the disparity of health outcomes between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and non-indigenous people in northern Australia.

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Telethon Kids Institute director Jonathan Carapetis said the conference was the first time he had seen genuine collaboration focused on the health of people living in the north of Australia.

“The great thing about HOT North is that it covers a lot of areas — the big focus initially was on chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, and also mental health,” he said.

“Out of that I’m very confident that we are going to work with local organisations, particularly Aboriginal medical services, with a big new program of research focused on Aboriginal families. We want Aboriginal families strengthening, which will ultimately lead to improved health of the kids.”

Pilbara local Yarlalu Thomas, who grew up in Warralong, about 120km south-east of Port Hedland, presented Pilbara Faces, a project he has been running which uses 3-D imagery to diagnose children with rare genetic disorders.

“One-third of children with rare genetic disorders have subtle facial clues that give doctors an idea about what condition they might have and how to go forward with treating them,” he said.

Mr Thomas said the forum allowed researchers to receive feedback on ways to engage the community. “For me as a Nyangumarta man from the Pilbara, it’s a good place for researchers and indigenous people to collaborate their work and see what important programs are going on in terms of improving indigenous health in this area,” he said.

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