Annual health check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander – podcast – men's health podcast part 2

This is the second part of a 2-part podcast featuring Mitchell Beggs-Mowczan and hosted by Danny Teece-Johnson talking about the benefits of a regular 715 health check.

24:39

Announcer

You're listening to a two part podcast featuring Mitchell Beggs-Mowczan and hosted by Danny Teece-Johnson talking about the benefits of a regular 715 health check.

Danny

I've seen a lot of men, including myself, so we start the 715 health check, we get about halfway through the process, and then we don't finish it off.

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

One of the barriers for me personally was the peeing in the jar thing. So, what they do, they test your kidney and your liver, and your blood sugars and stuff like that. You need to fast overnight and pee in a jar and take it to the AMS in the morning. That was a barrier for me.

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

It would, it'd come down to pure laziness, because I went straight to work. Instead of going from Rozelle to Redfern to work, I just went straight to work.

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

It was just pure laziness, bro. Just, I'll admit it to you right now, it's just absolute laziness. So, it took me a little bit to complete my latest 715, because I didn't get around to peeing in the jar overnight. What are some of the little barriers that you're seeing like that? These little tidbits that men, because we're lazier. We can be lazy. We can be.

Mitchell

There's definitely one, is follow up care.

Danny

Yup.

Mitchell

Aboriginal men and Aboriginal people, getting involved with their follow up care, going to their first appointment, but maybe not following up with the follow up care. Some of the other things are isolation. Some of our mob, they don't live near services that some of us have access to five minutes away. It's a whole day trip sort of thing.

Mitchell

And that's a really big issue. And having limited services in communities. Transport's a big thing for a lot of our mob, especially our elderly.

Mitchell

Cost is another big thing. To go see a specialist, it can cost you a couple hundred bucks, you know what I mean? And when you're looking after a whole mob, and the whole family and all that sort of thing, and you've got to come up with a couple of hundred bucks. Even though you may get some back from Medicare, it can be quite a quite a big thing, you know?

Mitchell

So yeah, look, that's a big thing. One of the other big issues, too, is not a lot of Aboriginal specific services or Aboriginal workers in the industries. It's a really big gap at the moment, which we're addressing at the moment and trying to make sure that we've got, even if we don't have Aboriginal workers, to make sure that we've got, culturally safe practices, environment and workers. So, but yeah, look there's a number of barriers. But I know, for Aboriginal men, that follow up care is a big, big barrier. It's something we want to make sure that Aboriginal men are doing, as to all the follow up care that is involved with health.

Mitchell

Because you may go in there, have a screen, you may need to come back the next day for results, etcetera, that they're following up with that. And that’s just as important as going in for the initial screen, to find out what the results were of that test, so that, the other way, I mean...

Danny

Yup,. I've done the 715, but I'm not going to find out what the answers are, all right?

Mitchell

Yeah, that's it.

Danny

Feeling all right.

Mitchell

That's it. Yeah, and it's not a new thing as well. A lot of the fellows that I've worked with in the past, they may need to see a specialist, or they may be shamed to sort of talk up and say, "Hey, look, I can't afford to go see that specialist, although I won't say anything, and I just won't go."

Mitchell

But there are programs available, like the Integrated Team Care Program, which works with Aboriginal people, with chronic conditions, and does have buckets of money there, where they can pay for things like specialist appointments, medical transport, medical equipment and a whole range of things. So we're really trying to promote this in the community, and trying to let as many Aboriginal people know, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know, that these programs are available, and don't be ashamed to talk up if you are struggling financially with transport.

Danny

Yeah. And a lot of our mob are. They're on the poverty line-

Mitchell

Absolutely.

Danny

And living away from health services in the city, we are very lucky, that we have access to. There's still isolation in the city, don't get me wrong, but we're very lucky that I live close to a medical service.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

Not many of our mob do. And the further we get out into the regions of our community, it gets more and more difficult to access those services, and complete those checks. Financially, to maintain a good diet can be challenging at times.

Mitchell

Absolutely.

Danny

But there is support for that as well.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

Is there not?

Mitchell

Yeah, absolutely.

Danny

Does it? That was a question.

Mitchell

No, no, definitely. No, no, there is absolutely is. As I was saying before, like, through the, when you have your 715, you can access some cheaper allied health visits a year.

Mitchell

And part of that is dietician. So when you go into a dietician appointment, it's good to be honest with them and say, look, this is what I spend a week on groceries. What can I get for that money to fit, that's healthy, and stuff like that.

Mitchell

So there are options available, and there's community programs that are available in neighbourhood centres, Aboriginal specific programs, and that that can help with these sort of things. And I encourage people to sort of speak up about that. Because if they don't, we'll never know that these are issues, so we can't address them.

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

Yeah, look, there's heaps of programs available, and things that can help out with that, definitely.

Danny

Now let's talk about the costs. Now, we were talking earlier around costs and programs for specialist services and whatnot.

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

Can you tell us about the bulk billing, and what that means, and any changes to that? Can we still use our Medicare cards?

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

What's the go with the whole bulk billing when it comes to the 715?

Mitchell

Yeah, look, some of the mob out there, they do have an issue when it comes to cost for services. And seeing a general practitioner sometimes does come at a cost.

Danny

Yup. Because we get everything for free, apparently.

Mitchell

Yeah. A common myth, isn't it?

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

Yeah, look, so there are general practitioners out there, and surgeries that do bulk bill.

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

So that is available for mob, as well. And what that means is, you won't have a fee for service. So instead of walking in there and walking out, and the GP saying, "Oh, that'll be $70"-

Danny

Yup.

Mitchell

Some of our GPs in our community do bulk bill, which means that you will receive it for free, the service.

Danny

Yeah, right. Because I've only ever, because I guess the way I was brought up and I've been a Moree boy, but I've only really ever used AMS. I've never been to GPs, only a few times.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

So bulk billing, I guess, in my mind means, you just hand over your Medicare card and they take care of the rest. I don't know, you know, is that it? Is that what it means?

Mitchell

Well, look, see, when you go to-

Danny

Because it might stop, that might be a barrier for the mob. "Yeah, I'm going to go to see the GP," but they don't bulk bill, or do they both bulk bill?

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

So it could be a barrier.

Mitchell

Yeah, look, and I've actually accompanied people where they tried out a new GP, and they walked out and they didn't realize it was a fee for service, and it can be quite shame.

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

So it's good to, if you are accessing a new surgery, to ask that question upfront. Will this be bulk billed, which means, will it be free?

Danny

Yup.

Mitchell

Or will it cost me at the end of this, at the end of my consultation? Just so there's none of that shame afterwards, you have your consultation, then you've got to come up with a fee.

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

So I encourage mob to just ask that question before they walk into the surgery, and just-

Danny

Because it's a real fear isn't it, yeah?

Mitchell

Oh, absolutely, mate. When you don't prioritize your own health, and you may be a bit tight on money, to walk out of a doctor's surgery and they say, "Oh, you've got to come up with this money, it can be quite intrusive, and quite shame." So I encourage mob to just ask that question beforehand. And there are bulk billing surgeries available.

Danny

So there are barriers out there for our mob accessing services, whether it be the specialist, the 715s, or whatnot. But there are answers out there, if people ask. We've got to be, the health sectors got to be proactive, reaching and engaging our mob.

Danny

But the mob's also got to-

Mitchell

Yeah, it's a two-way thing, isn't it?

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

And oh, like, not just sort of just encouraging our community to speak up. It's encouraging our health professionals to be active with referrals, and identifying their Aboriginal patients, knowing what's available.

Danny

Yeah, and I've found in our families, it usually just takes one person to start the conversation.

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

Around health or getting health checks, or... And a lot of our stuff - I know, just reflecting on my own family - a lot of our own health chats have become because of incidents, or what happened to our elders. You know, our Nan's had a stroke, and, and that conversation then turns into about, "Nan smoked for 40 years, maybe we shouldn't be smoking," and stuff like that.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

And shout out to my cousin Kelly, she's an ambulance driver out at Moree there, and very difficult job. But she's up every day doing it. And I think she's one of the champions in our family that got us all talking about health.

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

And so, if you can find that family member, your cuso, your stepbrother or sister, what, that's into health, and talk about that. And then going and talking to them can engage a whole wide family conversation.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

And do you see, does that, what does then that do for the family?

Mitchell

Yeah, look. So, when I was working specifically with the community, I was an outreach worker, and we'd go in, and we'd start off working with one family member. And then before we knew it, we had the whole mob, "Oh, that's a great service. Our aunt could really benefit from that," or, "My brother would really benefit from that."

Mitchell

So yeah, look, it's a definite thing that I've seen in the past, working in the Closing the Gap program. And sometimes it's just about showing, not only that person, but that family, that it's not a scary thing to go through health, and to make sure that you're screened and all that. And once they see that, "Oh, brother or sister done it," that breaks down that barrier for people. So yeah, definitely.

Mitchell

And don't be afraid to sort of be that person in your mob, and sort of say, it may seem like you're nagging at the time, but to sort of say, "Hey, have you guys had your 715? Have you, do you look after your health? Have you heard about the Aboriginal Health Weight Loss Challenge? Have you..."

Danny

Or please be that annoying Uncle that constantly says, "Go and get your 715 done there!"

Mitchell

Yeah!

Danny

Please be that person.

Mitchell

Go down and get your health check, because, you don't know, like those little things. And if you know that in your family that, the mob will listen to you sort of thing, you're going to make a big difference in your family, and the health of Aboriginal people in general. So yeah, definitely.

Danny

Well, what does the world look like to you, Mitchy? Say we have a rapid increase in 715s over the next five years, for men, in particular. What would the world look like to you, as an Aboriginal health worker?

Mitchell

Yeah, look, we know that our people's health, that we have higher chronic condition rates. We have some alarming rates too, our people are dying prematurely, at alot younger rates than the wider Australian population.

Mitchell

So look, I would hope that, in the future, if the 715s really kick off, and they really become, just a thing that everyone does every nine to 12 months, that our people would be living healthy, long lives, not filled with chronic diseases, and making sure that they live the lifestyle they want to live, and to be able to.

Mitchell

One of the big things we drive in the community is, when you do get a little bit older, that you're fit enough to play with your grandkids, you're fit enough to play with your kids, and you're not struck by these chronic conditions and stuff.

Mitchell

We work with fellas that didn't, maybe look after their health, and they regret it now. So, I would hope that in the future, if Aboriginal men and Aboriginal women, get these regular health checks, that, like I said, would live a healthy long life, and that our health statistics and our life expectancy rates would be even with the rest of Australia.

Danny

That'd be a beautiful day, wouldn't it?

Mitchell

Absolutely.

Danny

That that'd happen. Now, getting your 715, it's not about looking like the black Adonis carved from stone. It's not about, you know, like you're trying out for Baywatch, running down the beach in your budgies. It's just about feeling, physically healthy-

Mitchell

Yup.

Danny

And mentally healthy, and looking after our bodies, in mind and spirit, isn't it?

Mitchell

Yeah, absolutely.

Danny

It's not about just, being a big bulky fella and Instagraming up and that. It's just about really taking control of our health, isn't it?

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

It's not a vanity thing.

Mitchell

Yeah, quality of life. Yeah, and that's what these health checks are really for. It's to sort of look at, if you may be suffering a chronic condition, or if you're at risk of a chronic condition, and making sure that they treat or plan for the treatment of that, and yeah, so we can make sure that our mob don't contract these chronic conditions that, at the rates that we are now.

Mitchell

So yeah, look, and don't be shamed to go in to your local GP, and to speak up and say, "Hey look, I want to start living a better lifestyle. I do have chronic conditions that run through my family. I'd like to get a 715 Aboriginal Health Assessment, to make sure that I don't contract one of these chronic conditions," or yeah, so...

Danny

And so, mob, they might be listening to this podcast right now and be going, "You know what, I should go and get this done." Where do they, where's their first point of contact? Say they want to, so Uncle Johnny's out there, going, "Jeez, I better go and get this 715 done. I don't know what it is. I don't know what it means. I'm just listening to this podcast, but it sounds good."

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

Where's their first point of contact?

Mitchell

So different communities would be different, but generally speaking, the two main places for it would be their local GP, their local practitioner, also their AMS. So, the AMS’s are quite they're quite productive with these in the community at the moment.

Danny

Yeah. So it's just not saying, a message to do this.

Mitchell

No.

Danny

This is your local GP-

Mitchell

Right, local GP, yup.

Danny

Just, your local family doctor, whoever it may be, private.

Mitchell

Absolutely.

Danny

And do the 715s.

Mitchell

Absolutely. And that may not be advertised in the surgery, but that's why we encourage mob to sort of, go up to their GP and say, "Hey look, I've heard about this 715, I'd be really interested to sort of have one of these," and to start that conversation with their GP.

Mitchell

And then, what that might do is, that might get that GP thinking, "Oh, yeah, okay. I want to start doing this with all my Aboriginal patients." So, yeah, look, generally speaking, all GP practices and AMSs will do your 715s.

Danny

Yup. And we have some beautiful pamphlets that are out across AMSs and GPs. Can you talk us through some of these pamphlets, because they're just newly released, I believe, out there.

Mitchell

Yeah, yeah.

Danny

Which are a great resource for our mob. And for you mob out there, and I do this for some of my family members, if you cannot read and write, there is no shame in that. From some of my family members, I sit beside them, I read out the pamphlets, and stuff like that. So if you do have an issue with literacy and numeracy, please reach out.

Danny

Because I know a couple of my family members who can't read and write. And they make out their reading, but being gamin at the same time. So I'll sit there and read it to them so that they understand.

Danny

But can you tell us about these brochures? One's for health professionals and one's for patients. Can you just tell us a bit about them?

Mitchell

Yes. So the mob at 33 Creative designed these ones. And they took them out to a community, to see what the community's opinion on these were. And they were very positively received by community. And basically what it is, it's for all your mob that can't see it at the moment. It's a brochure, and it's got the Aboriginal artwork, with some Aboriginal people on the front, a GP on the front, on the GP one.

Mitchell

And it's basically just running through what the 715 may be. How to ask the question, who's eligible, what they may do in the 715 about identification in the surgery, etcetera. But the beauty of these little brochures is, when you walk into a surgery, sometimes the first thing you notice is that black fellow artwork on the wall, or on, in the brochure stand.

Mitchell

Our community will really grab it that and sort of say, "Hey, what's this here?" And I think yeah, they got local artists to do the artwork, which is, it's got an explanation on the back of the art.

Mitchell

But yeah, keep your eyes out. They are, like, they've got a purple-y tinge to them. And there is both for the patient and also the health professional. So we're trying to, as a PHN, really promote these, not only in the community but in the doctor's surgeries, to encourage that conversation of having a 715, and the importance of identification in general practice. So yeah, that's shout out to the team of 33 Creative.

Danny

You put it all together there. But it's handy info for our mob, do read these pamphlets, because they do give you the proper info, really do explain, sort of the questions that you don't want to ask. Sometimes we don't ask the silly questions, because we don't want to look silly.

Mitchell

Of course, yup.

Danny

For you Mitch, what's some of the tips to staying strong and healthy, and living a healthy life? We don't have to be absolute freaks about it. Do we?

Mitchell

No.

Danny

We don't have to be all around that, I don't... No, I won't go. But no, we don't have to be addicted to a healthy lifestyle. We can still be, live a healthy and fun lifestyle, we just have to have it in balance, don't we?

Mitchell

Absolutely.

Danny

What's some of your tips to staying strong, healthy and active?

Mitchell

Yeah, look. So some of the things that, obviously, we encourage is, to encourage mob to have their yearly 715. It's a good place to start. Your GP can sort of go through some of the things that you may be lacking in your life, if you do have high blood pressure, if you are struggling with mental health, etcetera, because these can be barriers to starting a healthy lifestyle.

Danny

Yup.

Mitchell

So one of the big things for me would be, encourage all mob to have a 715 Aboriginal Health Assessment. Some of the things that you can do in your everyday life is, look at some of the programs that are available in your community. I know in our Western Sydney community, we've got over 70 mob that participate in the Aboriginal Knockout Weight Loss Challenge. And it's created like a hub of mob support, weight loss, better lifestyle, just that social inclusion-

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

And all sorts of things, so-

Danny

Because fitness is becoming cool again.

Mitchell

Absolutely brother.

Danny

We've seen the last five years, like, fitness is starting to become cool again.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

Never used to be.

Mitchell

Yeah, look, it's... And not only is it good for your physical health, it's good for your mental health.

Danny

Yup.

Mitchell

I know that I go down there every afternoon, down to my gym, and sometimes, I might not even lift weight. I just yarn with people, and it's really healing for me, because, whatever stresses or whatever things I've gone through in that day, it's sort of a release point for me.

Danny

Yup, yup.

Mitchell

So, getting involved in some of the local programs, looking at your 715s on the yearly uptake, and finding a GP that you have trust with. Also, encouraging other mob to participate in these things as well. Not just yourself, but getting your daughter, your son, your brother, whatever it may be, and saying, "Hey, look, I've made this lifestyle change. I'd like for you to, as well," etcetera.

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

So, encouraging other mob, and dietary, and all that sort of thing-

Danny

Because that's, yeah, it's important to drag your brothers along.

Mitchell

Absolutely.

Danny

So eventually, I got bought into the, what was it, the Healthy Weight Loss Challenge, isn't it?

Mitchell

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Danny

And I was like, ‘I don't need to lose weight. I'm a skinny little fella.’ And it was like, ‘Yeah, but you're unhealthy, bro.’

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

‘You need this.’

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

‘You need this.’ And I got dragged along to it by my mates, because they recognised that I was unhealthy, and-

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

And good brothers do that.

Mitchell

Yeah.

Danny

‘I'll drag you along.’ It's like, ‘I don't care, you're coming with us.’

Mitchell

We know. One of-

Danny

I'm glad I did. I felt so much better after it.

                                          

Mitchell

One of our goals at the Western Sydney team, we, our goal wasn't to win the Health Challenge. It was just to help people to change their lifestyle, and to have an environment where they came and felt safe, and they could feel inclusive into something. And also, to help their physical and mental health.

Mitchell

Sometimes, we'd see, we'd start off with a certain amount of people. And then, all of a sudden, the brother, the sister's coming, that the whole mob was coming, just because, that word of mouth, just reached promoting that to the other mob, and saying, "Hey, that wasn't that actually that bad."

Mitchell

And like you said, bro, we had people there, that their goal wasn't to lose weight. It was just to get a healthier lifestyle. And that may be what it may be for some people. It's not always about losing weight, it's sometimes just about a healthier lifestyle.

Danny

Yup, you're totally mental-health related-

Mitchell

Yeah, good job, yeah.

Danny

Using exercise to address your mental health issues is something I do all the time.

Mitchell

Yeah. Absolutely.

Danny

Like you said, it's better than drinking a couple of glasses of wine at night. If you go and do some exercise, or do something like that, you feel amazing.

Mitchell

Yeah, it sets your goals, too. You know, at the end of an eight-week program or whatever it may be, that I not only wanted to achieve this, but I want to make sure it's a lifestyle change, that I don't just do it for that eight weeks, that I can live a healthy, happy lifestyle, and to make sure that I'm around for as long as I can be, and that it's not stricken down with chronic disease, and poor lifestyle, you know?

Danny

What's the best advice that you've given to someone, in terms of health, that's really resonated, and really cut through? And we're talking about young fellas here and men. What's something that you've said, that really sort of, that's cut through?

Mitchell

Yeah, look, I actually think that, when you go to the gym, when you do all these sorts of things, you've got to learn to enjoy it. One of the things is, you can get motivated for a gym for a couple of weeks, because you want to look great. You want to get fitter and all that.

Mitchell

But you've got to learn to try and enjoy that process. You know, not just not just focus on the end goal, enjoy the journey. And that starts with the everyday things that you do in life, your eating, your exercise, the things... If you can walk to work, if it's only, and you're driving, just changing those little habits.

Mitchell

But enjoy the process of it, because that's how you'll change a lifestyle, not just a short term periods. So that's what I try and encourage with all the young fellas that I train at the gym, is to say, "Enjoy this process. The rewards will come, but you've got to enjoy the process."

Danny

Yeah.

Mitchell

So yeah, that's one of my big things that I try and promote.

Danny

And that's really good advice to wrap it up on. For me, I think, what got me back into health again, at the tender age of 43, I think it was, was I had a black fella who runs a health program encourage me, not preach at me, to get fit and get healthy and be active.

Danny

And I think that's really important, the way that we engage with our mob, rather than preaching and telling them, but maybe encouraging, as a really good way to get fellas back into health, and doing their 715s. And we just can't emphasise enough how important this is.

Danny

Take someone who's lived their life, like Luna Park when they're in their twenties, who's now 44, and has to address some issues to get his health back on track. But it's never too late to get your 715, and it's never too early to get your 715, is it, brother?

Mitchell

Absolutely, brother. And it's not shame. There's nothing shame in yarning about your health. And at the end of the day, we want to see our mob grow healthy, strong, happy lives. And it can all start with a simple health check, and yeah, please promote it and lead by example - have your 715.

Danny

Yup. That's it. If you're going to talk the talk, walk the walk. Make sure you go to www.health.gov.au/715-health-check, and you'll find out all the info there. If you've got young mob in your family, they'll get on the Net for you there, Grandpa, they can show the way to get access to services.

Danny

Mitch, just lastly from you, what's your last bit of advice, information? Just your last comment on the 715 that you'd like to say to our mob?

Mitchell

Yeah, look, I want to encourage as many mob as possible to have the 715. They roughly take about 45 to an hour. It's not a lot of time out of the year, but it can have massive results, to not only your health now, but your health in the future. And it's accessible. So please speak up, and encourage all mob to have the 715, when best convenient to them.

Danny

Yeah. Well said. Mitch, we'll leave it there. I'm Danny Teece-Johnson. Thank you for this listening to this important podcast about the 715, and to our brother, Mitch Beggs-Mowczan, thanks for sharing your stories, and for your information.

Danny

And please, you mob out there, get in touch with your local GP and your local AMS for further information.

Mitchell

Thanks, Danny.

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You’ve been listening to a podcast talking about the benefits of a 715 health check. For more information visit health.gov.au/715-health-check. Your health is in your hands.

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