What does catching dragonflies have to do with some of Australia’s worst health statistics?
If language and oral history are the cornerstones for many Indigenous cultures, problems with hearing from an early age can mark the beginning of a disconnect with lifelong consequences.
Australia’s first Indigenous ENT specialist, Dr Kelvin Kong, has some interesting tales to tell. Be ready to be moved and inspired as Dr Kong talks about the collaborative work he is involved with in the Hunter New England health system, changing lives through solving ear health problems amongst Australian Indigenous children.
From modest beginnings in Shoal Bay NSW, Dr Kong observed his mother, a community nurse, provide first aid and medical care to a constant stream of friends, family, and neighbours, while juggling the demands of career and sole parenting three children. From assisting as a child at his mother’s side to observing the experiences of his peers through high school, Dr Kong learned at a young age that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people had very different experiences within the healthcare system.
Life outcomes for Indigenous children with hearing issues, including poor speech and school performance, truancy, low self-esteem, and behaviour issues, were often vastly different too.
As one of only three Indigenous surgeons in Australia, Dr Kong is passionate about ‘giving back’ and addressing the disparity in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Each year, he spends a portion of his time working in, and for, remote Australian communities providing access to quality healthcare that would otherwise be limited or unavailable.
Dr Kong's experiences and motivations in establishing visiting ENT clinics, and linking and aligning Aboriginal Medical Services within a wider regional ENT & Hearing Service, are closely aligned to the drive within the HealthPathways Community to work collaboratively.
“When we set out to change health outcomes we need to work together with community and with government. Collaboration is crucial - we need to provide the necessary support for change rather than just prescriptive measures,” says Dr Kong.
“If we can reduce the risk of hearing loss we can have a direct impact on a child’s ability to learn and develop. The change that we see is remarkable - we can take children from limited hearing and language skills to fully functioning teenagers with real employment prospects.”
Dr Kong’s determination to ‘do good’ is echoed in the values of the HealthPathways Community.
“If we collectively do things more consistently and collaboratively, we can continue to do even more good, changing lives through better health outcomes on a local, national, and international scale,’” says Streamliners CEO, Ian Anderson.
Offering an engaging mix of warm anecdotes, saddening statistics, and a challenge for us all to do better, Dr Kong’s keynote address at this year’s HealthPathways Conference on 14-16 May promises to be memorable, providing us all with some key questions to consider as we take part in the rest of the conference programme.
Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of the HealthPathways journey towards Collaborating Globally for Local Impact.
Register now for conference or, if you have already registered, make sure you get the most out of your conference experience by planning which sessions you’ll attend – see the Conference Programme.