The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the ability of many service sectors to deliver their business as usual during 2020. Collaborative research in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter respectfully referred to as Aboriginal) communities was one of them. Many communities closed or restricted non-essential visiting services, including research, to ensure the health and safety of their communities was rightfully maintained as the highest priority. We commend the leadership and swift action of Aboriginal communities shown during this time and the example this has set for our country moving forward.
Despite these significant disruptions, the HipHop2SToP project is an example of another way Aboriginal communities successfully responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic; by pivoting to the use of virtual technology to continue priority health activities and engage with partners who were no longer able to visit in person. HipHop2SToP is a community driven and designed health promotion project that produced an educational video on the importance of environmental health activities to promote healthy skin and healthy communities.
In Aboriginal culture, skin is central to identity, kinship, country and belonging. Skin infections in remote Australian Aboriginal children are the highest in the world with almost one in two children experiencing skin sores at any one time. Skin infections often go undetected and cause itching, discomfort and school absence; and, if left untreated, could lead to sepsis, kidney and rheumatic heart disease. Preventing skin infections is a high priority for Kimberley communities and health services. HipHop2SToP takes a strengths-based approach to address environmental factors to prevent skin infections and aims to increase community awareness of these.
In 2020, we partnered with the Woombooriny Amboon Angarriiya Partnership Initiative (WAAPI) in the West Kimberley, WA, to produce the HipHop2SToP video. We employed local Aboriginal community navigators who designed and led the project, start to finish. A young budding local Broome artist wrote the music. Local media company Goolarri Media Enterprises filmed and produced the video. Bardi, Jawi and Nyul Nyul children from four remote Aboriginal Kimberley communities (Ardyaloon, Beagle Bay, Djarindjin and Lombadina) participated in a series of environmental health education and lyric writing workshops using MS Teams prior to the filming of the video. They then became the stars of the visuals and audio of the video, all filmed on country, during a youth leadership empowerment camp run by WAAPI in September 2020. The kids wrote the lyrics during virtual workshops, learning about the importance of healthy homes and healthy communities for healthy skin. We’ve published more about this process here: Keeping it real: Virtual connection with SToP trial community navigators.
HipHop2SToP is part of a larger research project, the SToP (See, Treat, Prevent, skin sores and scabies) trial. The SToP trial is a partnership project between Telethon Kids Institute, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, WA Country Health Service – Kimberley, and Nirrumbuk Environmental Health and Services. Operating across nine remote Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley, the SToP trial takes a holistic approach to improving skin health that focuses on recognition (See), health care seeking and evidence-based therapies (Treat) and the unparalleled importance of prevention (Prevent) inclusive of environmental health and health promotion activities. These three components have not previously been used in a clinical trial.