Online carers’ support program gets tick of approval

10 minute read

One Victorian PHN has funded a digital, lived-experience program that is reducing distress and loneliness.

An online program designed to support family members caring for someone with disability or chronic illness, funded by North Western Melbourne PHN, has been found to significantly reduce psychological distress and loneliness.

Published in PEC Innovation, the study evaluated the Online Carer Wellbeing and Connection Program, developed by Carers Victoria and funded by NWMPHN.

The program, informed by lived experience, runs online over four weeks and is designed to support carer wellbeing and connection. It was initially rolled out in 2020 and 2021.

A team of researchers led by Amy Coe from the University of Melbourne’s Department of General Practice and Primary Care surveyed 103 program participants and found that it had a positive impact on carer wellbeing, reducing loneliness and distress.

Participants reported heightened feelings of connection with others, and increased social support, as well as learning new techniques for self-care and stress management.

Ms Coe and her colleagues reported that the evaluation supported wider implementation and translation of the program, making it available to more of the estimated 2.65 million Australians who deliver informal care.

Christopher Carter, NWMPHN’s CEO, said he was pleased by the positive findings.

“This program is just one example of NWMPHN’s commitment to identifying service gaps and funding innovative solutions to improve the wellbeing of carers in our region,” he said.

The program is available to carers living, working or studying in Melbourne’s north and west, particularly Brimbank, Darebin, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Wyndham, Macedon Ranges, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley, Moorabool, Merri-bek and Yarra.

Typical responses from carers interviewed as part of the evaluation process included:

“I feel relieved, I’m not so different from others, and hopeful as I have found a group where I can express myself without being judged.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunity and thank you for being so helpful. It not only helped me to connect with myself more but also with others. Stable steps toward my wellbeing goals.”

For more information and to register, visit the Carer’s Victoria website.

Country SA PHN

The recipients of Country SA PHN’s Rural Health Innovation Fund inaugural grants have been announced by the PHN’s chair, Dr Simon Lockwood.

“The Rural Health Innovation Fund was overwhelmed with interest from a myriad of community organisations,” said Dr Lockwood.

“The grant applications were of a very high standard and the scope and breadth of the proposals was fantastic.

“I would like to thank all those who applied and encourage you to apply again and spread the word about the community health and well-being opportunities that the Rural health Innovation Fund grants can provide for country South Australian communities.”

The successful recipients were:

  • Barunga Village will be implementing a Focus on Falls Prevention program designed for people living at home who have experienced a fall or are concerned about falling. The program involves strategies to implement positive lifestyle change. It combines strength and balance exercise with falls awareness education and participant engagement to share their lived experience. Focus on Falls will support people across the Yorke, Mid North, and Barossa regions.
  • Diabetes SA’s grant facilitated a type 2 diabetes awareness and screening program at the recent Yorke Peninsula Field Days at Paskeville. South Australia has the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in Australia, with 6.8% of our population living with the condition. In some rural and remote areas, the figures are almost double at 12.2%. Diabetes SA said the Field Days presented a great opportunity to bring their type 2 diabetes screening and awareness program to country South Australia. They were overwhelmed with the number of people lining up to chat and be tested. “We are grateful to the Rural Health Innovation Fund for funding this important initiative and honoured to be a recipient in the inaugural year,” said Diabetes SA CEO Angelique Pasalidis.
  • The Hawker Community Development Board grant will allow the Hawker Community Gym to be updated and enhanced with virtual gym equipment for online exercise. This project is part of a continual plan to keep the gym a desirable and safe place to belong to and work out in as well as develop strategies to enhance the potential of the aerobics room space.
  • Side X Side Mateship for Life is a community driven and led, lived experience men’s mental health and wellbeing fitness event. The event will provide a safe and non-judgemental environment in which men can openly discuss their mental fitness. This will include a discussion about the importance of having a mate to speak with, noting changes in a friend’s behaviour and having the tools to reach out to them, to check in and see how they are travelling. “This initiative is an example of responding to community need and supporting community to lead,” said Sandy Taylor, team lead of Our Town Ceduna Far West. “At the heart of it we hold the notion that the people of our community are the experts in their own lives.”
  • Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service will hold an elders and community Heart Safety First community awareness campaign and purchase crucial medical equipment including defibrillators. The defibrillators will be installed and displayed in the Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service community buildings where healthy lifestyle, elders, men and women’s groups, community, and youth groups as well as Drug and Alcohol prevention workshops and meetings are delivered.
  • The Port Vincent Progress Association’s grant will enable it to continue its popular community exercise classes allowing participants to continue their health and wellbeing journey to achieve their goals. “This is an amazing initiative,” said exercise class participant Rosemary Button. “It is wonderful to feel connected with others and our instructor Jo knows exactly how to keep us motivated.”
  • The Embrace Collective’s grant will enable them to bring its youth-focused Activate by Embrace to boost body image to country South Australia. The nine to 14-year-olds and their teachers, parents and carers will view Embrace Kids, a film that aims to educate and inspire audiences to create a world where we are not held back by the thoughts we have about the way we look. Participants will then engage in activities to support them to fuel, move and be kind to themselves and their bodies, while empowering them to become real role models. These young people will then take the Embrace Kids resources back to their communities, where they can lead change for hundreds of other young people.
  • The Riverland Youth Theatre will offer the local community a disability health and wellbeing week-long arts event – enabling the creation of a remarkable new festival of art, play and games for children with disabilities.
  • The Whyalla Men’s Shed is a grassroots volunteer community organisation. It will partner with consumers and local agencies to improve health literacy and awareness of local health and support services program. This program will hold monthly men’s health and wellbeing meetings to deliver sustainable improvements in knowledge for an at-risk community of older men and their families – assisting them to manage their health and health care needs.

Gippsland PHN

Gippsland PHN will host public health expert and CEO of VicHealth, Dr Sando Demaio, as guest speaker at the PHN’s AGM and primary health awards on 15 November.

Dr Demaio originally trained and worked as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and was CEO of the EAT Foundation in Norway and a medical officer for the World Health Organization in Geneva before joining VicHealth.

The event will be held in the Traralgon Little Theatre at 6pm with a special performance by a group of young Indigenous dancers from Ramahyuck in Sale.

Register here to attend the event.

In other Gippsland news, the PHN is partnering with Monash Rural Health to learn more about the health needs of people who don’t access healthcare, even if they have health issues.

The feedback and engagement will inform the Gippsland PHN Health Needs Assessment.

Gippsland PHN is inviting not-for-profit organisations and community groups who operate in Bass Coast, South Gippsland, Latrobe, Baw Baw, Wellington and East Gippsland local government areas to apply for grants of $500 to help support recruitment of participants for the study.

Eligible not-for-profit organisations and community groups must be connected to people at risk of poor health outcomes who are not accessing healthcare.

Gippsland PHN is particularly interested in hearing from organisations and groups supporting people with multiple barriers for access, including people:

  • experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness;
  • experiencing food insecurity (struggling to afford enough healthy food);
  • aged 16 to 25 years; and
  • experiencing other barriers for accessing healthcare, including a multicultural background, LGBTQIA+, violence, legal issues or other barrier/s.

Participants that are identified by organisations and community groups will be invited to take part in a 30 to 45-minute guided conversation or a 60 to 90-minute group discussion with a researcher.

An anonymous survey option will also be made available.

Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN

The PHN has released a request for proposal (RFP) for ongoing evidence-based mental health interventions delivered by multi-disciplinary teams to manage the care of clients with complex mental health concerns.

These services are currently operating across the region; however, opportunities exist to co-design the service scope to meet the changing needs. A co-design process with existing providers, clinicians, consumers and other relevant stakeholders has occurred to ensure services remain relevant and continue to address the needs of the client.

As part of the RFP, the PHN will be seeking providers with existing capacity and experience to deliver these services. Services in line with the service specification developed through the co-design process are expected to be established and receiving referrals from 1 July 2024.

For information about the RFP please visit the PHN’s TenderLink portal.

Western Queensland PHN

The WQPHN is training 46 digital mentors to support patients and clients to learn new digital skills.

“Digital mentors will listen for and create teachable moments while they go about their normal roles across the health landscape,” according to the PHN’s expression of interest document.

“Participants will gain the digital skill to inspire, motivate and educate patients and clients, enabling them to confidently navigate the digital world and engage more effectively in their healthcare.”

Key commitments include:

  • Completion of a comprehensive two-hour virtual training program, covering various aspects of digital mentorship;
  • Integration of digital skills into patient and client interactions where appropriate;
  • Contribution to pre- and post-training surveys to gauge program success;
  • Adherence to necessary background checks, including working with children (blue card) and police checks; and
  • Registration on the Be Connected network website to track program impact.

“We invite organisations working in primary and community health across western Queensland to nominate staff members to participate in the program,” said the EOI.

“Nominees can include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, health workers, allied health professionals, practice managers, and administrative staff. Participating organisations will receive a reimbursement of $100 per participant, with potential organisational caps, subject to availability and funding constraints.”

To be part of the program, register interest here by 20 October.

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