Introduction:

The Menzies HealthLAB project began in 2014 with the help of its founding supporters the Rotary Club of Darwin. It is an innovative, interactive and educational travelling health program which measures biomedical risk factors for chronic diseases from a mobile laboratory.

HealthLAB aims to directly engage the public, with a focus on youth and Indigenous communities, to educate people about positive lifestyle choices and taking ownership of their health.

Background:

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of illness in Australia, with disability accounting for 90 per cent of all deaths. Diabetes and heart disease alone cost the health system more than $6 billion each year. 

Smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol misuse and physical inactivity, all contribute to the development of chronic diseases. 

Lifestyle choices pregnant women make in pregnancy, can affect the health of their unborn child. Maternal smoking can cause low birth weight and increase the risk of chronic diseases later in life for the unborn child; alcohol consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; and both diabetes and obesity can affect an unborn child by increasing their risk for diabetes and obesity later in life. 

What is the Menzies HealthLAB?

The HealthLAB is a face-to-face experience for participants with a clinical coordinator and trained staff who can discuss chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, alcohol literacy and smoking. A participant’s health is measured against the benchmarks for these diseases using modern technology. The test results and health implications will be explained to the participant in detail by the clinical coordinator and trained staff.

In May 2017, the HealthLAB app was launched and can be downloaded for free here. The app allows people moving through HealthLAB to store and monitor results each time they participate in HealthLAB. The app is currently only available for Apple device users.

Three programs have been designed for specific populations to focus on their lifestyle choices and consequences:

  1. A secondary school program to target Year 10 students will be developed in collaboration with NT Department of Education.
  2. A mobile community population program will be delivered in Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs public spaces, rural towns and communities, sporting clubs, business corporations and at public events.
  3. A mobile extended program for Indigenous communities with additional themes at workstations will highlight the importance of hygiene and the consequences of infections which disproportionately affect these populations. A “meet the Indigenous scientist and the Indigenous doctor” opportunity will be incorporated into this program.

Through these HealthLAB activities we seek to deliver the following outcomes:

  • To increase awareness in the community about the health consequences of lifestyle choices made today on their later personal health and the health of their children yet to be born.
  • To change behaviours linked to smoking, alcohol and the development of obesity and diabetes.
  • To immediately improve the health and wellbeing of the population and in the long term, to decrease the adult onset of chronic disease and improve the health of the next generation.

Bookings for HealthLAB are available; email us to find out more.

Summary:

The Menzies HealthLAB aims to translate research knowledge into action and improved health. It has the potential to positively impact health outcomes over the entire life course by ensuring the wider community, particularly young and Indigenous people are fully informed of the consequences that lifestyle choices made today, can have on their own health and that of their future children.