TRADITIONAL WAY – CHILD DOCTORS
For thousands of years the Ngangkari – the traditional aboriginal healers in Central Australia – have passed on their skills to young children. The idea of children being “doctors” is deeply embedded in indigenous culture and life. Now this idea is getting a new injection of life with the Young Doctors project.
The project brings together doctors, community health workers, Ngangkari and elders to pass on skills to young people so that they can take responsibility for the health of their younger peers and their community.
Any child who attends school regularly will be able to become a Tjitji Doctor.
“The best thing about this is that it puts aboriginal people in charge of their own situation”, says Dr Sabine Boes whose extensive experience in remote communities has fuelled her passion for practical solutions to the challenging situations she has encountered.
The Young Doctors will learn about the need for washing, cleaning noses, hand hygiene, wearing clean clothes, keeping the house clean, keeping the community clean, and a whole lot more. Independent research has shown that these simple techniques will significantly improve primary health outcomes and will likely reduce longer term chronic health problems. Every bit as importantly they also learn traditional ways.
Driving the project is the disturbing health for Aboriginal children.
91 % in the NT suffer with otitis media and are at risk from deafness,
25 % of Northern Territory children are affected by trachoma [eliminated in all other western countries] and at risk of blindness
87% of Aboriginal households in the Northern Territory have no water and power
38% of Indigenous people are aged under fifteen [compared to 19% of Australians]
In 1978 the World Health organisation raised the idea of empowering children to become health ambassadors delivering primary health care. The idea took root in many countries, but nowhere more successfully that Nepal where there are more than two thousand child doctors. In Aceh the program was hailed as being responsible for there being no outbreak of cholera after the Tsunami.
Young Doctors are taught by a team of Indigenous and Western doctors and trainers over a fun packed but structured schedule. Weekly meetings with practical sessions are conducted over a period of twelve months. The Young Doctors also experience regular sessions learning about traditional approaches to health and wellbeing.
The Young Doctors act as health ambassadors for their communities, particularly their peers.