November 2019

Gunbalanya takes community action to tackle Rheumatic Heart Disease

 

Oenpelli, or Gunbalanya as it’s known by locals, is a large remote community in West Arnhem Land situated on a beautiful billabong and surrounded by huge boulders with stunning traditional artwork. This community has recently taken action to tackle Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), a preventable and deadly disease.

Gunbalanya had heard about the RHD community-led action in Maningrida and invited leading cardiologist Dr Bo Remenyi to conduct echo heart screenings to check for RHD across their school students.  These screenings were held at the school, during health week where skin (inclusive of scabies), eyes and ear checks took place, along with immunisations. Thanks to Dr Bo, the Gunbalanya clinic and William Costigan (public health co-ordinator for West Arnhem), new cases of RHD were detected and immediately treated with penicillin injections.

At the same time, Take Heart filmmakers, Mike and Sue Hill were invited to film some of the local community members to develop educational material on RHD, tailored to the Gunbalanya community using their voices, their local language and their way of describing good and bad germs.  The community has now received these films and are reviewing them for a community viewing.

‘We are very grateful to be invited to accompany our partners Dr Bo Remenyi, Mike and Sue Hill to experience community-action first hand.  We thank the traditional owners and all members of the community, who shared their beautiful land with us and took us on a meaningful adventure up the boulders of Gunbalanya’. Georgina and daughter Alannah, aged 10 years.

More from Alannah ‘I liked getting tips about being safe around crocs at the billabong! I also liked meeting the kids (and dogs) at school and hearing more about RHD – one of the boys had to be in a wheelchair for two months but now after lots of penicillin injections, he is able to walk again – phew. But he must keep up the injections until he is 35 years old’.