Pika Wiya (Sickness no) say the mums and bubs of Port Augusta

300km north west of Adelaide, the Port Augusta community are passionate about helping their mumsand bubs stay healthy and strong.

Pika (meaning ‘sickness’) and Wiya (meaning ‘no’) is derived from the Pitjantjatjara language, one of the many Aboriginal languages spoken in the local area. It’s a fitting name for the Aboriginal community controlled health organisation that has been helping locals stay free from sickness for nearly 50 years.

At Pika Wiya health service, the annual 715 health check is helping residents understand and better manage their health. The local service runs a range of support programs, from birth right through to parenthood, encouraging residents to undertake their regular check.

The Kinderling’s program, run by Pika Wiya health service provides incentives to help encourage mums and bubs to undertake a 715 health check.

Amy Walters runs the Kinderling’s program designed for babies from birth through to six years old. Amy says an essential part of the program is undertaking the 715 health check, right from birth.

“715 health checks on our babies are very important. It gives us a benchmark on where they are at birth and makes sure they’re growing healthy and meeting development milestones throughout their childhood,” says Amy.

“Women are busy, so we look for ways to help encourage mums to bring their bubs in for the 715 health check. We give them or their babies free clothing – we have little onesies, t-shirts, dresses – the mothers love the dresses! It provides a positive incentive to keep coming into the clinic and ensure their and their babies health checks are up to date. While they’re here, we talk to the mums, making sure it’s a safe environment for them to come to to talk about health.”

While at the clinic, mums are provided with information and encouraged to join the Pika Wiya Well Women’s program, offering three weekly group education sessions, counselling and support services to help the mums look after their own health too.

Kerryn Gardner is an Aboriginal health practitioner and team leader for the Well Women’s programme. She’s been with Pika Wiya health service for nearly 30 years, and is passionate about helping the community, especially local mums, stay in good health.

“Mums have to be healthy to look after their baby. We want the babies healthy so they can grow and thrive. Having the 715 health checks is so important for early detection and prevention of illness,” says Kerryn.

“At the Well Women’s House we offer a veggie pack when mums complete their 715. We check blood pressure, glucose levels, height and weight, smoking. We talk about diet and their social and emotional wellbeing. It is a really safe and welcoming environment.

Local GP, Dr Julia Nook, says the 715 health check is a critical first step to engage with patients about their health needs.

“It’s not just about having a 715 health check. We use the initial screening consultations to build trust with our patients, getting to know them and their family. We work together to try and look at issues identified in the health check, like tackling smoking or weight, and when people are ready, we refer them to follow up services like a dietician,” says Dr Julia.

“Sometimes there are underlying issues that might be causing some of their health issues and we can explore those further with patients too.”

Kerryn says the key to Pika Wiya’s success in the community is the emphasis they place on building relationships with patients.

“We help our women and babies stay healthy by providing a medical service that’s friendly and safe, which is so important.”

The 715 health check is free at Aboriginal Medical Services and bulk billing clinics, and 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.