Narrandera men will have the chance to get a free health check through the Rotary-funded Men’s Health Education Rural Van (mherv).
Mherv will visit the town on Sunday at the Tourist Information Centre and on Monday at the taxi rank in Bolton Street between 10am and 4pm.
“The whole purpose of this is that blokes don’t go to the doctor,” said Adrian Payne, who is the mherv project leader.
“I don’t know what it is, whether cost is a factor there, or it’s more that people think it’s all good.”
The van travels around most of western NSW and is manned by full-time registered nurse Nicole Page, who takes blood pressure, checks blood sugar levels, tests cholesterol levels and will answer any questions that visitors might have. Men can access all of these services at no cost at all to them.
“They take away the results of the tests to take to their doctor. They don’t do any treatment, it’s more of a referral.”
The blood sugar and cholesterol tests both only require a pin-prick blood test. Finding out blood sugar levels is an easy way to detect type 2 diabetes.
The tests are completely confidential – all the mherv staff ask for is a first name and phone number – and men can access their own results to take to their GPs on the nurse’s advice. It’s free, takes between five and ten minutes, it’s neither painful nor intrusive, and it does save lives.
“These tests are non-intrusive – the most intrusive thing is a prick on the finger to test for diabetes,” Mr Payne said.
“It doesn’t matter what happens, it’s good news. If the tests are taken and Nicole just tells you to see your doctor more regularly for a check-up, then that’s good news. If it turns out that a trip to the doctor will save their lives – and that’s not uncommon – then that’s also good.
“In the early days there was an incident where they took a guy straight to the hospital, and the hospital staff were saying if they hadn’t he would have died during the day.”
Mherv began as a Rotary initiative in 2008 after Rotarian Tony Mackenzie became concerned about the amount of health problems amongst rural men that presented far too late.
Many men in rural areas can go for years without seeing a doctor, with some men citing that even if they did have concerns they didn’t want to be seen at the GP’s office. Unfortunately this reluctance can result in men living for years with preventable, treatable illnesses.
In conjunction with the Western District Hospital in Mudgee, Rotary borrowed an old caravan and a registered nurse and started driving out to surrounding towns to provide health checks to men in these areas, like Nyngan, Cobar and Bourke.
With time and funding the caravan has become a little more sophisticated. Mherv is now a purpose built caravan with two consulting rooms (which have no windows, ensuring complete privacy).
“It’s interesting; some years ago when mherv was started in an old caravan – in a borrowed caravan – people were anxious that there were windows, because they could be seen. That’s why the new caravan has no windows,” Mr Payne said.
“Often Nicole gets the help of a local nurse to help out.”
Mherv is currently touring most of NSW and started in August this year. Until Christmas, the van will mostly concentrate on Western NSW, and then after having a short break over the summer, mherv will continue on to more eastern regions of the state.
Rotary clubs in each community are providing help and support along the way, with some providing accommodation or publicity.
“The local Rotary clubs are hosting,” Mr Payne said.
“Rotary is divided into districts. Our district is rather illustriously called 9670. So it’s a district project, it’s supported by the districts.
“We raise money the best way we can, because we have to pay Nicole, who does all the tests and drives the van. She’s a bit of a loner on the road, but she has a good team behind her,” Mr Payne said.
As a part of this tour, statistics will also be collected on the way in conjunction the Hunter Health Men’s Health Unit in order to create a more comprehensive picture of rural health along the way.
The Royal Freemasons Benevolent Institution donated the funds to pay Ms Page’s wages for the duration of the tour.
“We’ve got some great sponsors. Mazda dealers have donated the use of a vehicle, a brand new ute to pull the van.
“We’re hoping that what we’re doing is right. If the women can start saying, why don’t you just duck down there, then we’re doing something right,” Mr Payne said.