The burden of musculoskeletal pain in rural and remote Australia

  • RMIT chiropractic students from the NSW Koori knockout in 2014 in Raymond Terrace near Newcastle
    RMIT chiropractic students from the NSW Koori knockout in 2014 in Raymond Terrace near Newcastle
  • Chiropractic and osteopathic students from RMIT, Macquarie University and Southern Cross University in Dubbo NSW
    Chiropractic and osteopathic students from RMIT, Macquarie University and Southern Cross University in Dubbo NSW
  • Macquarie students helping the community at NAIDOC Redfern 2015
    Macquarie students helping the community at NAIDOC Redfern 2015
  • RMIT student helping a patient at the NSW Koori Knockout in Leichhardt 2017
    RMIT student helping a patient at the NSW Koori Knockout in Leichhardt 2017

Photos: Joan van Rotterdam

By
Joan van Rotterdam
Australian Chiropractors Association (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rural and Remote Practitioner Network)
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The Global burden of disease study published in October 2016 reported that in the vast majority of countries low back pain and neck pain were the leading global cause of disability. Musculoskeletal disorders can have a great effect on mobility and contribute substantially to the burden of chronic pain and illness. This is also true in rural and remote Australia with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 25 per cent more likely to report having back pain than non—Aboriginal Australians.

Musculoskeletal pain is the number one reason why the public consults chiropractors. The Australian Chiropractors Association (ACA) is the leading voice for chiropractors. The intent of the ACA is to improve the general health of all Australians and it is committed to playing an integral role in promoting solutions, quality standards and relationships such our role in the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA).

The rural and remote interest group of the ACA began a few years ago and in 2018 went through a revitalisation with a revised agenda. It started with a new name; the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rural and Remote Practitioner’s Network (ARRPN) which was in line with our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

This year the ARRPN have been working on a RAP that truly reflects us as a profession; we think we have done that, and we are proud that our RAP has been accepted by Reconciliation Australia. The next step in this process is to find artwork and then we hope to launch the RAP with a ‘welcome to country’ ceremony before the ACA’s Annual General Meeting in October 2019.

The ARRPN committee is also working to find a cultural awareness program that is a fit for the chiropractic profession. This is an important agenda item as the profession has a number of outreach programs for chiropractic students. From there we can help towards “closing the gap” and work to reduce the health inequity that exists between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

The committee has not forgotten the rest of the rural and remote community and as the chair of this group I have taken an active role with the National Rural Health Alliance in working to iron out any problems with the roll-out of the My Health Record program.

Trying to find locums and associates to work in rural and remote areas can be difficult. The ARRPN supports the work of Murdoch University to send chiropractic students to experience working with rural and remote practitioners.

The Rural Generalist program which is currently working to promote ways of increasing the allied health workforce in rural and remote settings is also of great interest to our group. The student outreach programs are the start to encourage future practitioners to develop a better relationship with these workplaces. Lyndon Amorin-Woods of Murdoch University has provided research results that show that experience while a student creates more favourable attitudes to working in the bush.

The ACA in 2019 has also launched the Australian Institute of Chiropractic Education (AICE) which seeks to promote advanced clinical competence and knowledge transfer through the establishment of credentialed advanced learning pathways. It will provide the chiropractic profession with a consistent framework within which practitioners can be recognised for their advanced skills and knowledge.

 

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