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This is an opportunity to hear about a unique and highly innovative renal clinic and health promotion project in one of the remotest parts of Australia. The Western Desert Kidney Health Project – launched in October 2010 – is a multidisciplinary team of Aboriginal health, medical and community development workers and artists aiming to reduce disease and diabetes in the vast Goldfields area. With the aid of two six-tonne ‘healthy lifestyle’ trucks, the project covers an area about the size of Great Britain populated by almost 8,000 people whose expected life-span is 17 years less than that of non-Aboriginal people. One vehicle is a mobile clinic for early detection of disease and chronic disease management, health promotion and evaluation; the other transports artists and healthy lifestyle workers who collaborate with the communities to create education stories about kidney health.

Ongoing action research targeted at 10 indigenous communities aims to determine the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and end stage renal disease, the prevalence of the risk factors for these diseases, the age at which those risk factors appear and to determine whether community education and development strategies, coupled with current recommended medical care can reduce the prevalence of these risk factors. The project team presents health promotion strategies to the communities using a community arts for community development model. The communities are then assisted with appropriate referrals and strategies to reduce the prevalence of these diseases and assist prevention.

The project is led by the two presenters of this talk. Christine Jeffries-Stokes is a paediatrician and medical researcher. She has been in the Goldfields for 20 years, working particularly in paediatrics and indigenous health. The project’s Chief Investigator is senior Wongutha woman Annette Stokes of The University of Western Australia’s Kalgoorlie-based Rural Clinical School. Annette is an awarded medical researcher as well as being a visual artist, community arts practitioner and musician. She has lived in the Goldfields all her life and holds a high level of cultural authority and respect. Christine and Annette are sisters-in-law and are accompanied on their UK visit by Christine’s husband Geoffrey, a respected elder and preacher of the Wongutha people.

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