Water flowing into remote schools and parks

A scheme aimed at improving oral health and reducing obesity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has installed cold fresh water at Boggabilla’s school in north-west NSW—and its town park.

Funded by the University of Sydney’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, Rotary and the NSW government, the so-called Dalang Project was piloted in 2016.

A dedicated oral health aide, teeth brushing program and filtered chilled water fountains were installed in Boggabilla Central School, Mungindi Central School and Toomelah Public School in rural NSW, before rolling out to schools in six more communities across the state.

Last month, the first water fountain for general use was installed in Boggabilla Town Park, with local parks in the other communities to follow.

“We’re delighted we’ve reached this stage of our program, allowing easy access to tasty cold water for the whole community,” director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, Kylie Gwynne, said.

“Water quality is big problem in many remote towns and people often turn to soft drinks as the cheaper option.

“This, of course, has a serious impact on rates of dental disease as well as other associated chronic health problems.

Gwynne added: “Along with the fountain, we’re also providing refillable water bottles. Together with our work in schools, this practical, effective and holistic approach to dealing with a complex issue is resulting in real benefits to communities.”

At the launch of the Poche Centre’s new five-year strategy at Parliament House in Sydney last year, the former NSW Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, praised the Dalang Project and the Poche Centre’s ambitious goals.

“Projects like this help deal with the scourge of sugar-rich drinks and the associated complications for overall health and chronic disease. Its success demonstrates that with innovation we can deliver excellent health care services across the state,” she said.

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