Rural Health Initiative 2018 Wrap-Up

On July 12 in Bathurst, Arthritis NSW held the first community event of our Rural Health Initiative 2018. Since then we have presented the health education program to audiences in five rural communities, providing them new and useful information about how they can better manage their arthritis.

The Rural Health Initiative was funded by our Rural Health Appeal, which we ran in the lead up to Christmas 2017. Thanks to our ever-supportive donors, the appeal raised $19,500 and, with a Community Underwriters grant of $4000, the organisation turned that goal into a successful tour of regional centres.

Since July, the health services team has visited Bathurst, Parkes, Macksville and Henty and Albury. Most events were aligned with local agricultural or community shows and promoted enthusiastically by our local support groups. Thank you to our team who worked tirelessly with local community leaders to set up each event and make sure it ran smoothly.


The first seminar of the Rural Health Initiative was sold out and the demand surprised us all, with nearly 70 people squeezing into the Bathurst RSL Club meeting room.  ANSW partnered with the Central West Women’s Health Centre and their Executive Officer Erica Pitman gave a great presentation.  Erica gave practical and valuable information on living well with chronic illness, using tips from her own journey with rheumatoid arthritis.  Her talk complemented the presentation by Andrew Cairns, ANSW Health Services Manager, who gave a fantastic overview on the varied types of arthritis and how to utilise exercise and nutrition to manage the condition.  We received several invitations to return, from the mayor and many who were unable to attend our first event at Bathurst.


The seminar at Parkes was held on August 28 in collaboration with Kerin Physiotherapy Co., focusing on overcoming the barriers to managing arthritis. Similar to Bathurst, this was complemented by a presentation from the ANSW Health Services Manager. Members of the Parkes Support Group and the local community attended in equal numbers and gave great feedback on both presentations.  We were also excited that nearly 60 people visited our stand at the Parkes Show on August 28–29.  Most had been unable to make it to the seminar but appreciated the opportunity to chat and receive practical tips and support.  We made some great contacts including a local GP and community services, and were touched by the struggles of the region due to ongoing drought.


The Rusty Iron Rally, held on 1–2 September, is a loved annual event run by a local Macksville organisation attracting hard-working community members.  In addition to meeting many of the welcoming locals, we met a lovely 12-year-old with rheumatoid arthritis and his mother who had heard about us through their rheumatologist but did not have the confidence to engage until meeting us in person.  Due to the trust established by face-to-face contact at the rally, an additional 25 people registered for the forum. The forum was held at the Macksville Ex-Services Club and attended by more than 75 people.  Our partner, Nambucca Valley Care Ltd, contributed allied health expertise from the Executive Care Manager, resident physiotherapist, occupational therapist, nurse and podiatrist.  The presentation by Andrew Cairns was very well received and triggered some enthusiastic community questions.  There have been requests for the establishment of a local support group, which is likely to commence shortly.

Here is some feedback from an attendee at Macksville: ‘I really appreciated the practical issues that were addressed and the panel’s knowledge of our local community services was also great.’

Henty and beyond

Our next rural adventure was the Henty Field Day from the18th–20th September, where more than 57,000 people flocked to learn about everything rural.  ANSW spoke twice at the Country Lifestyle Pavilion where we had our display stand and chatted with almost 120 people hailing from Narrandera, Clarinda, Tumut, Griffith, Tumbarumba, Corowa, Lake Cargelligo, Wagga, Temora, Young, Lockhart, Leeton and nearby Yanco.

Albury – a great way to wrap up!

More than forty people from throughout the Riverina attended our presentation on Monday 5 November, and many visited our information stand at the Albury Show in the days prior.  People came from several rural and regional towns, in response to newspaper articles and three radio interviews with our CEO. Initially, ANSW was wrapping up at the Albury Show, however several requests for a presentation received at the Henty Field Days resulted in us organising (very quickly!) an event at the Commercial Club in Albury.  We were fortunate in collaborating with the Murray Primary Health Network to include a presentation on My Health Record that complemented our self-management message.  Once again, Health Service Manager Andrew Cairns did an inspiring presentation on Exercise and Nutrition, with excellent feedback from participants.  Evaluations included practical comments such as “I will now think more consciously about food”, commitment to “plan more exercise, including balance” and “be more persistent with exercise and weight loss”.

ANSW thanks participants, the Murray Primary Health Network and Albury Show team for their support and dedication.

The local communities we have visited in 2018 kept thanking ANSW for caring enough to visit. We, in turn, thank our regional community partners and donors for helping us make it happen and we look forward to continue to delivering the Initiative in 2019!

Rural Health Initiative Appeal 2019

Following the success of the Rural Health Initiative 2018, our plan is to extend the initiative in 2019, to reach more NSW regional communities that have limited access to health education and services.

Last year we raised $20,000. This year our target is $40,000 – to deliver an expanded program to more regional areas. Can you help us reach that target? Learn more about how you can donate here.