By Callum Marshall
A workshop bridging local health and medical professionals with polio survivors was run on Friday afternoon to help provide better information and insight into the disease.
The Late-Effects of Polio (LEoP) or Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS) may be affecting 400,000 people in Australia, according to estimates.
Clinical Health Educator at Polio Australia, Paul Cavendish, who runs workshops across the country, said locals had pushed for the session in Broken Hill.
“It’s come from polio survivors in Broken Hill. It was something that we wanted to do, but survivors were struggling to find specialists and people with information and knowledge on how to treat their symptoms,” he said.
“We organised with the Primary Health Network to come out and run this workshop as well as ‘linking in’ our polio survivors with some health services in Sydney by video conference.
“With our organisation we have networks of people, particularly specialists, that’ve got a lot of skills and knowledge.
“We’ve got a health professionals’ register online and part of the session was for our attendees to complete that and enable cross-referrals among health professionals.”
Besides ‘linking in’, a key aspect of the workshops was passing on information to health and medical professionals.
“The main things that we’ll cover are the assessment process of what key questions and information do they need to gather with that polio history, and then what are the types of referrals that they would make,” he said.
“Also, how do they treat and manage those symptoms themselves within different professional roles, whether they be physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists and so on.”
Part of dealing with PPS was also breaking down many of the societal stigmas and understanding people have of the disease.
“We talk about it as ‘forgotten but not gone,’” said Mr Cavendish.
“Thankfully, we don’t have the epidemics because of vaccination. But there are a lot of people that have a polio history from before that vaccination time.
“Not only in Australia, but migrants and refugees that have come to Australia that still have it.
“For migrants, Post-Polio Syndrome can be (tracked to) anywhere from post-Second World War up until very recently with our refugee intakes.”
Mr Cavendish said part of changing the stigma around polio was letting the public know that there were still people suffering the effects of it that they might not be aware of.
“With the history the disease has had people are not aware about how many had polio,” he said.
“There are people out there that are declining in function because they have that history. There is need for support in our communities for these people.
“So there are things that can be done by health and medical professionals to manage their declining function as they get older.”
For those struggling with Post-Polio Syndrome in Broken Hill, the workshop would have helped alleviate some of their concerns, said Mr Cavendish.
“Hopefully now they’ve got some more confidence that there are health professionals out there that understand their symptoms and understand that they’re having struggles and it’s not to do with an ageing process, it’s got to do with a polio history,” he said.
Mr Cavendish said there was still plenty more that could be done though.
“Previously, the nature of polio was understood as a long period of relative stability. There’s a lot going on inside of people’s bodies that we can’t see but they’re maintaining function,” he said.
“During this time public health everywhere slowly decreased the level of support that existed, and there were considerable support that were there.
“We’re in a situation now where there’s no support for a polio survivor. So we’ve got a huge population that requires support without any of the infrastructure that used to exist. It is a big shortfall.”