Lessons from the pandemic shaping future health improvements in Cherbourg

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Cherbourg Health Council’s second forum at TAFE Queensland Nurunderi Campus

Cherbourg Health Council’s second forum at TAFE Queensland Nurunderi Campus

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A community-led initiative, born out of a successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is taking bold steps to improve the health of Cherbourg residents.

The Cherbourg Health Council was formed in early 2022, following the successful collaboration of Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council, Darling Downs Health, and Cherbourg Regional Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Services (CRAICCHS) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Mayor, Elvie Sandow’s leadership has been integral to both the COVID-19 response and the ongoing work of the Cherbourg Health Council.

“The Health Council is all about empowering local mob to take the lead in identifying both the problems that we need to tackle and the solutions that we can apply to ensure all Cherbourg people enjoy long and healthy lives,” Mayor Sandow said.

“The Health Council’s approach understands that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have the solutions to health problems affecting our people.”

During the pandemic the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council—determined to take a lead in keeping the community safe—worked with local government and non-government service providers to coordinate an ‘all of community response’.

This response kept the community safe, with Darling Downs Health delivering a huge 455 surge vaccinations to Cherbourg residents in under ten days through super clinics and a door-to-door vaccination service. Additionally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers focused on providing COVID-19 testing and social support for residents, informed by a community-driven holistic model of care.

Darling Downs Health Director Indigenous Health, Rica Lacey said that a combination of clinical support and local knowledge is key to the collaborative work of the Health Council.

“The power of clinical knowledge combined with comprehensive local knowledge in the health worker workforce cannot be underestimated,” Ms Lacey said.

Early success for Cherbourg Health Council includes the re-establishment of the Cherbourg Hospital Indigenous Liaison role, a plan for upgrading the Cherbourg Hospital waiting room to make it more culturally friendly, and the extended provision of care in peoples’ homes.

The Cherbourg Health Council’s second forum took place on Monday 31 October at TAFE Queensland Nurunderi Campus, with community service providers meeting to discuss progress made by the Health Council and the next steps of the Cherbourg Health Plan.