Nov 21, 2017 at 9:30AM
Regional Ararat Forum: Building Confidence through Knowledge
A forum held at the beautiful Pyrenees House in Ararat on 21st November gave 30 health and community workers from Western Victoria, training and knowledge in the latest treatments to tackle the serious public health challenge posed by viral hepatitis, a chronic disease impacting the lives of an estimated 100,000 Victorians.
Ararat Rural City Mayor Glenda McLean, who has experience in welfare and therapeutic roles, attended the morning session and said she “…applauded the initiative of Hepatitis Victoria,” in arranging the forum -also a professional development opportunity- in the region.
"Hepatitis is a much misunderstood and feared disease, but the focus on management and treatment, including the hepatitis C cure is welcome news for our community and the broader Western District," she said.
Experts in hepatitis B and C gave talks and spoke about issues surrounding prison infection and people who inject drugs. The lasting negative impacts of stigma and discrimination were also explored during the day.
Martin Forrest, Hepatitis Victoria’s Health Promotion Programs Manager said he was delighted with the turnout for the event and the attentiveness of those who attended.
“I was very pleased the forum attracted a diverse group of people; midwives, practice nurses and community workers and that it was a success. The excellent support of all the presenters must be acknowledged, without them would could not have pulled it off,” he said.
The presenters were Associate Professor Ben Cowie, Dr Nicole Allard and Jenn Maclachlan of the Doherty Institute, Gabrielle Bennett of St Vincent’s Hospital and Elizabeth Birbilis of the Department of Health and Human Services. Their presentations are available below.
“We brought experts from Melbourne, but we also had local speakers; two nurses specialising in hepatitis C treatment Kirsty Simpson and Michelle Orr from Ballarat Community Health were fabulous and I am very grateful for their involvement,” Martin said.
The support of people who know the region well is very helpful because you need local help to effectively combat hepatitis B and C. “You really need partnerships and buy-in from the whole community to make these events succeed.”
Martin said that many people in regional Victoria know someone who has died from one of these diseases, “…people like the mayor are important… if they can carry our message we can then reach the community and make people’s live better.”
Combatting stigma and discrimination is one of the most important aspects of events like these and relating the lived experience of people who have the disease is a very powerful tool.
Kate, one of the two lived experience speakers at the forum, hails originally from the area.
“We talk about the data, then have our speakers talk about their lives –it’s an incredibly brave and gracious thing for them to do this,” Martin said.
Sione Crawford, Health Promotion Project Officer for Hepatitis Victoria spoke at the forum and said he found the atmosphere “…really quite lovely, the attendees where very engaged and that makes a difference.”
“People were asking interested and good questions – a couple of people had even driven up from Melbourne to attend.
“The more we can engage with service providers across Victoria who are in touch with our community, the better for that community –and the better for hepatitis B and hepatitis C elimination,” he said.
Hepatitis Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services for this forum.
Presentations from the Forum