Wednesday, 08 September 2021
Charles Darwin University
A gorilla in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park
A gorilla in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park

Lessons from Rwanda for remote health in the NT

A Charles Darwin University (CDU) Professor who now works in Rwanda has drawn parallels between remote health in the Northern Territory and the African nation.

Former CDU Professor of Clinical Psychology in Health Equity in Alice Springs, Professor Timothy Carey, is currently the inaugural Director: Institute of Global Health Equity Research and Andrew Weiss Chair of Research in Global Health at the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda.

He says despite major size and population differences between the NT and Rwanda (Rwanda has a population density of 525 people per km2 whereas the NT’s population density is 0.19 km2), there are lessons to be shared as both are challenged by remoteness, health inequities and intergenerational trauma.

“Remote health in the NT could learn from the remarkable gains Rwanda has made in tackling health inequities, particularly in areas such as maternal and child health,” Professor Carey said.

“Rwanda is overcoming health inequities in several ways, such as promoting a strong sense of community and social responsibility as well as tangible endorsements and demonstrations of unity and reconciliation.”

Rwandan health services are administered and organised locally, and schemes such as the ‘one cow per poor family’ program are helping to alleviate poverty and childhood malnutrition.

Rwanda’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) are regarded as the backbone of the health system, with three CHWs for every 100 to 150 people. CHWs are selected by the community and even though the positions are voluntary, they’re valued and respected roles.

“Rwandan health could also benefit from lessons from the Territory,” he said.

The NT’s model of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations could provide important insights into the organisation and administration of comprehensive primary healthcare services at a local level.

“The training and practice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners and Health Workers can also provide constructive ideas for expanding the roles of Rwandan CHWs.

“Inequities and social injustices are problems that transcend geographical, cultural, and other boundaries. It makes sense that the solutions to these afflictions should similarly disregard conventional demarcations.

“The more we can learn from each other despite differences in GDP and economic development the closer we will move to an equitable and socially just world for us all,” he said.