Understanding how to live well with type 2 diabetes can be daunting, but 44 Aboriginal people around the Pilbara have taken the opportunity to put themselves in control of their health by attending a workshop adapted in consultation with communities across WA, including Roebourne.

Diabetes WA has been running DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed) workshops for Aboriginal communities in Karratha, Roebourne and Onslow since July as part of a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) trial funded by the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA).

The DESMOND program provides participants with practical skills for managing type 2 diabetes in a welcoming and non-judgemental space. It is delivered by specially trained DESMOND educators who help people to take ownership of their diabetes.

Sophie McGough, Health Operations Manager at Diabetes WA, said that the Aboriginal DESMOND program had been very popular.

“Based on community feedback over the last three years, the program has been split into two half-day sessions rather than one long day, and the materials are more visual and culturally suitable for Aboriginal communities”, Sophie explained.

“The Mawarnkarra Health Service in Roebourne and Karratha Central Healthcare have done a fantastic job in identifying people who would benefit from the program and helping them to attend”, she added.

WAPHA regional manager Winny Henry confirmed that diabetes has a significant impact on the health of the Pilbara region’s Aboriginal people, with diabetes complications being a significant cause of potentially preventable hospitalisations.

“Diabetes has to be tackled from the ground up, and WAPHA supports the design and delivery of innovative programs such as DESMOND which are culturally appropriate and give Aboriginal people the skills and confidence to improve their own health and that of their communities,” Winny said.

Leigh Black from Mawarnkarra Health Service said, “The self-empowerment gained by attendance at the Aboriginal DESMOND program has been obvious in most of the participants. Personal improvements in health have been noted, however the most exciting message being heard, by word of mouth, is ‘You can do something about your diabetes’. It is a small but significant step forward.”

The trial is now being evaluated, with participants encouraged to attend yarning group in December and January to discuss the impact of the workshops.

The NHMRC Aboriginal DESMOND trial is funded by WAPHA. Diabetes WA and Charles Darwin University are research partners for the trial.