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Medical students rewarded for volunteering

Medical students rewarded for volunteering

Published: 11th May 2012

Blog post by: Sue La Greca on behalf of Regional Development Australia, Western Melbourne

Sue La Greca has been the Executive Officer for RDA Western Melbourne for nearly two years. Prior to that Sue was employed in economic development management positions with local government. Sue enjoys RDA work as it combines the economic, social and environmental issues that matter to regional development.

Bill Noonan (Deputy Chair of WMRDA) with some of the medical students.  Bill is the champion of the Community Health Screening Program and was responsible for linking Ventura with Melbourne University.

As part of its social inclusion objective, the Regional Development Australia, Western Melbourne (WMRDA) decided to do something about the high level of preventable diseases in the West.  While most people in permanent employment have access to health checks, this is not so for those who are unemployed or in casual work.  So the WMRDA partnered with Centrelink to deliver health screening in the region’s major Centrelink offices and the Flemington public housing estate.

The health screening program started in the transport and logistics industries in Victoria and New South Wales, where it was discovered that many truck drivers suffered from being over weight and from other related conditions such as diabetes and sleep apnoea.

Over a two month period 1,521 people were screened.  Preliminary findings have been collated, while a detailed report is currently being prepared by Dr Mark Howard from the Institute for Breathing and Sleep (IBAS) and David Stanley from PreventionXpress, the company that delivered the screening.  The report will be reviewed by University of Melbourne Medical School academics and then published.

University of Melbourne medical students, based at the Western Clinical School at Sunshine Hospital, volunteered their time and skills to assist with the screening process, taking blood tests, blood pressure readings and so on.  The students were a great help and developed a real rapport with the participants.  Their experience with the program will help to further develop their interpersonal skills in dealing with people from a wide range of circumstances and backgrounds.

As a way of showing our appreciation for their hard work, the WMRDA was able to connect the University of Melbourne with the Managing Director of Ventura Bus Lines, Andrew Cornwall.  What does a university and a bus company have in common you may well ask?  The medical students needed a bus to transport them between Sunshine and Footscray hospitals in the Western Region, and Ventura was able to donate a 26-seater bus for just that purpose.

On Thursday the 29th of March, the WMRDA hosted a luncheon and student award ceremony at the Western Clinical School where the medical students were given certificates of appreciation and a small gift, and the bus was formally handed over from Ventura to Melbourne University.

The bus donation means that students will no longer have to spend hours waiting for public transport or trying to find a car park but will be able to use their time more efficiently and be sure of arriving to class on time.

The Western Melbourne RDA recognises the importance of health to a person’s ability to fully participate in work and community life.  Similarly, unemployment can lead to poor health due to depression or lack of resources. 

The Community Health Screening Program has been a true partnership development between the WMRDA, PreventionXpress, IBAS, The University of Melbourne, Western Health, and all three levels of government.  In particular, WMRDA has developed a strong relationship with The University of Melbourne and its Western Clinical School.  We hope that this relationship will lead to further partnership programs and will also encourage the medical students to consider a career in the Western Melbourne region where there is a shortage of doctors.

What is the future for the Community Health Screening Program?

The report that will compare the results of health screening in Melbourne’s West with the national average, needs to be finalised and published.

Initiatives to address the prevalence of preventive diseases such as diabetes need to be further developed, communicated and co-ordinated on a regional or local basis.

Further screening for the Western Melbourne region and other RDA regions is being considered.

Finally, the Western Melbourne RDA is looking to pilot a program called “Australian – African Health in the West” due to a significant number of African migrants who were screened, showing results that suggest a possible high incidence of preventive medical conditions.