Off to the Top End

LOCAL podiatrist Justine Kenny heads off to Alice Springs today to provide vital foot care and education to indigenous communities across the Top End.

She and fellow podiatrist Sara Coombes, from the northern NSW town of Wauchope, will be travelling throughout February and March to seven communities in both Alice Springs and Darwin.

Mrs Kenny said that working to help prevent infections, foot and leg amputations and even death is what drove her to get involved.

“We’ll be up there in Alice Springs for about two weeks, and will see people from at least seven communities in and around the city,” she said.

“Indigenous people who have diabetes are our general target group, and what we would like to happen would be that patients are actually foot-screened before we get there, so that we can treat the more ‘high-risk’ patients-that doesn’t always happen, because of time and people having other things to do than screen feet.”

She said that she has certainly seen an interesting variety of feet over the years.

“We certainly see some ‘interesting’ feet, that’s for sure,” she said.

“A lot of people don’t tend to wear shoes up there, and we’ve also got patients who, because of having diabetes have neuropathy, where they lose all feeling in their feet.

Generally because they can’t feel their feet, they don’t know what’s going on with them, could potentially step on a piece of glass or something and actually not know.”

Ms Kenny also said that due to the higher instance of diabetes in the Territory, healing times tend to be a lot longer.

“Due to the slower instance of healing, there is increased risk of infection, and this can eventually lead to amputation,” she said.

“What we’re trying to do is to reduce this amputation rate, as the mortality rate of amputations is about five years, so in essence we’re trying to ‘close the gap’ on that mortality rate.”

She and Ms Coombes also encourage people to take care of their feet in a variety of ways.

“We encourage them firstly by regular washing, and then thoroughly drying them,” Ms Kenny said.

“We also encourage them to regularly look at and feel their feet, so that they can check to see if there’s anything wrong.

We also encourage them to put a little bit of cream on their feet, and try to get them to wear some more protective footwear than say, just thongs.

We also suggest what are called ‘reef sandals’ as well, which are a little bit more protective. And because the climate is really hot, having enclosed shoes is not always easy. Access to products can be harder for them too, so we try and encourage them just to buy what they can down at their community shop, such as Arexant (a specialised foot cream) or sorbolene moisturiser.

We also look at them trying to get some of the hard skin off by using a ‘pot scourer’, which is a simple product that they can use easily, and that can be purchased at their local shop,” Ms Kenny said.

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