Miwatj Health’s Regional Renal Program

Having a chronic disease is tough anywhere, let alone in a remote community. In 2012, with limited access to Renal Specialists and tired of having to travel off country to receive treatment, a Yolŋu Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patient partnered with Miwatj Health to develop the Regional Renal Program (RRP).

“They wanted to remain on country,” RRP Coordinator, Nathan Garrawurra, reflected. “To be closer to family and loved ones and where they could continue to practice their cultural obligations within their community.”

The RRP began with a focus on providing nurse-led haemodialysis on country. Today, that focus has broadened to include addressing the social determinants of health and implementing strategies to prevent CKD.

Kidney Health Week at Miwatj Health

Two of Miwatj Health Regional Renal Program Coordinators smile outside kidney health conference.

Kidney Health Week (7 – 13 March 2023) is an opportunity for renal health services and advocates to generate awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease. It coincides with World Kidney Day (9 March 2023) and, this year, the theme aligns very closely with the Miwatj Health approach to CKD management: “Kidney health for all—preparing for the unexpected, supporting the vulnerable”.

The Miwatj Health Regional Renal Program is committed to maintaining population wellbeing and kidney health across East Arnhem Land. In addition to supporting and enabling critical services for Yolŋu living with CKD, they:

  • Advocate for the rights of CDK patients and their families
  • Support Renal Specialist clinic visits by ensuring patients can have their bloods, health checks and referrals in place ahead of time
  • Facilitate Yarn Groups about kidney health and how to keep kidneys strong in community
  • Develop resources to educate communities on Yolŋu lived experiences with CDK
  • Improve access to medications in community

During Kidney Health Week (7 – 13 March 2023), the RRP team have been continuing their work, while also setting their sights on the wider Miwatj community. Through a series of presentations, Miwatj staff have been gaining insights into the Program’s activities and learning more about what’s involved in CKD care management.

About Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic Kidney Disease is a silent disease with its highest prevalence in the Northern Territory. A staggering one in 10 adults in the top end have at least one clinical sign of CKD and less than 10% are aware of their condition. CKD is in the top 10 causes of death and, devastatingly, First Nations Australians are five times more likely to have end stage kidney disease. For the Miwatj community, these statistics make having CDK a very real possibility.

The Regional Renal Program team develop strategies, implement activities, and provide education on how to prevent and manage CDK. Rather than just taking a singular approach, they also look at the non-medical factors that influence patient health outcomes, including housing, environment, and food security. Miwatj Health’s holistic RRP approach is delivered in partnership with our Allied Health, Nutrition and Diabetes Education teams; Clinic Managers; community members; and Purple House.

Listening to Yolŋu is Key

Miwatj Health’s Regional Renal Program supports the needs and choices of those living with CKD through a Yolŋu worldview. The Program’s success is directly linked to the team’s efforts to listen to those in the Miwatj community.

“[Our] Patient Reference Groups and Yarning Circles give patients a voice,” Nathan shared. “They help us to determine what resources are appropriate to deliver services in community and what our patients [want from us].”

CKD patients in Miwatj communities are keen to share their Kidney stories and advocate to others. While Kidney Health Week may be drawing to a close, this aspect of the Regional Renal Program certainly isn’t—there are plenty of outreach opportunities planned in the coming months.

Want to Know More?

Regional Renal Program activity dates are posted on our social media channels (Facebook | Instagram). To find out more about the program, contact the team. 

Yolngu woman waves at camera as Miwatj Health Regional Renal Program outreach group meets in East Arnhem Land to discuss community kidney health needs.