Doctors trying to stop illness, early death
By BELINDA SCOTT
BOILS are just a symptom of what is killing Koori people, say medicos.
Dr John Kramer, who treated patients at Yarrawarra Aboriginal Corporation's weekly clinic yesterday, says the boils that have spread through the Corindi community may be painful but they are not what is killing Aboriginal people.
Dr Kramer said the skin conditions were a symptom of an overall health disadvantage.
"The thing that struck me was that three Aboriginal people from that community, all in their early 40s, had died suddenly in the last week," Dr Kramer said.
He said one person had died of a stroke, one of a heart attack and the third in a car accident.
Dr Kramer said such premature deaths were all too common in the Aboriginal community, which had high levels of chronic illness, ear infections, diabetes and heart disease among other health problems.
The Woolgoolga-based general practitioner, who started the weekly clinic more than 10 years ago, said smoking, housing difficulties leading to frequent moves, fragmented families, disruption, stress, lack of transport to seek medical help and in some cases lower levels of nutrition were among the health problems plaguing Aboriginal people not only on the Coffs Coast but around Australia.
He said there were 'some splendid exceptions, including remote communities with immunisation rates above 90 per cent, well above that in the white community'.
"At Yarrawarra we are grappling with it, but we started so far behind we can't catch up overnight," he said.
Dr Helen Palmer, of Coffs Harbour's Galambila Aboriginal Health Service, also said this week's publicity on the outbreak of boils and skin diseases overlooked the deadly problems of smoking, heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Kramer said a nutritional project to provide fresh food to the community at Baryulgil, near Grafton, had seen a reduction in both ear and skin infections.