715 Health Checks in schools are getting kids on board with their health

If it wasn’t for the 715 health check, Kerry Drake’s children would still be missing school due to chronic illness.

The mother of two from Kwinana says the school health check program run by local Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre, Moorditj Koort detected underlying health conditions for both her children, that hadn’t been picked up before.

“My kids were constantly sick before getting the 715 health check. My son suffered croup ever since he was a baby, and both kids had ear infections a lot. They both had a lot of time off school due to sickness,” says Kerry.

The Moorditj Koort schools’ program is delivered in primary and secondary school campuses in the region to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students complete a 715 health check. The annual health check is a comprehensive health assessment, providing preventative and diagnostic screening of patients from physical to social and emotional wellbeing, and is offered to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in a number of schools

Jonathon Ford, CEO of Moorditj Koort says the service was established in response to a need identified by the local Aboriginal community.

“We undertook a community needs assessment and one of our local Elders came up with the concept of the one-stop shop. They wanted a health service they could go to, get information, and support to be able to access multiple services within the community,” says Jonathon.

“So our concept at Moorditj Koort really focuses on this one stop shop. We bring together services across the health system – GPs, Allied Health Services, specialist services, hospitals and health promotion teams – to provide seamless care. It gives our community the overarching view of what’s being implemented and an opportunity for services to work effectively together.”

It was this integrated approach, that Kerry says was critical to getting her children diagnosed and treated quickly.

“Both my kids had the 715 health checks at school. Afterwards, the Moorditj team called me in to the clinic. I was referred to the ENT specialist with both children and they got their tonsils and adenoids removed. It was really quick,” says Kerry.

“I wouldn’t have known what was needed without the 715 health check – it had never been picked up before. Since they’ve had the 715 health check and follow ups, they haven’t been sick, and haven’t missed school – we’ve had no issues.”

Moorditj Koort program coordinator, Carmel Kickett, says the program is important in helping people overcome the barriers to getting a regular 715 health check.

“If an Aboriginal person doesn’t feel comfortable going into a health clinic, they’ll turn around and walk away. Sometimes, people feel that their local health clinic isn’t culturally appropriate and that’s one of the biggest barriers,” says Carmel.

“At Moorditj Koort, we help our community overcomes the barriers they might have to looking after their health. We go into local medical practises and work with GPs and their staff to undertake cultural awareness training or help with providing transport for patients to get to their appointments.

“With the schools’ program, we undertake the 715 health check for students with parental consent. We then help the students and their parents with the follow-up appointments, especially for counselling, dental, ENT – we make sure that each the students get the services they need.”

Moorditj service is also helping to set a positive experience for students and parents to develop long term trust and relationships with local providers. The Moorditj team see this as a critical component of their work, helping people to look after their health independently.

“We’ve found, doing the 715 health checks at schools, the kids are not so frightened to see the GP. When we first started out with the high school kids, none of them wanted to engage with the GP. But now we start at primary school and work up right through high school and we see the children are not frightened, its become part of everyday life to see the Doctor” says Carmel.

Kerry too has seen this change in her own children.

“They do get excited when they’ve had their 715 done. They come home from school with a toothbrush and toothpaste and it’s a little thing but it gives them an incentive to brush their teeth and look after their health,” says Kerry.

“Because of the 715 checks being done early, my kids are not afraid to go the doctors now and it sets them up later in life to have a positive outcome on their health.”

For the passionate team at MoorditjKoort that is the most rewarding aspect of their work.

“Our students are happy to go and speak with the GP now, even when we’re not involved. That’s one of the biggest benefits that I’ve seen and Moorditj Koort has achieved in delivering the 715 health checks with our community,” says Carmel.

“So come on you mob, your health is in your hands. Get your 715 health check today.”

The 715 health check is available annually to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages. Further information, including resources for patients and health practitioners is available at www.health.gov.au/715-health-check.