Good communication gains support for new health programme

August 11, 2012 by  

Knox Community Health Service expects to implement a needle exchange programme in Ferntree Gully within the next few months following the recent go-ahead by the Department of Health.

Residents and business owners in Ferntree Gully, as well as nearby suburbs like Knoxfield and Scoresby no doubt, were concerned at first about the location of this health initiative in their community, particularly near schools. Department of Health spokesman Bram Alexander assured reporter Tara McGrath (Knox Weekly, 3 August 2012), however, that printing services were used to produce information packs which were sent out to 1,500 homes. In addition, 73 local businesses were directly consulted.

Once people understood that needle exchange programmes actually did much to protect communities from blood-borne diseases, public response was generally positive or indifferent. Records show, for example, that since 2008, Knox has had 24 cases of newly acquired Hepatitis C compared to only seven cases in the neighbouring cities of Maroondah and Monash where needle exchange programmes already exist.

Representatives from Knox Community Health Service, schools, small businesses, Knox Council, police, Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local and the Department of Health will form a committee to provide advice on the implementation of this new exchange programme. While stationery printing and other preparations will need to be completed before a definite start date can be set, all signs so far suggest that those involved are eager to ensure consultation is open and effective with a good relationship between the scheme and the community established from the outset.