A video showing the work of travelling men’s health van MHERV has won a national Rotary competition.
MHERV stands for Men’s Health Education Rotary Vehicle and travels NSW and southern Queensland, providing free health screenings for men with a registered nurse.
The Rotary initiative is also supported by fund-raising activities and sponsorship.
The two-minute marketing award-winning video was made by a local Rotary member and focuses on the country town of Morpeth, a small suburb of Maitland in the Hunger Region of NSW.
"And we chose Morpeth because it has that country flavour that's typical of so many country town,” Rotary District Governor Brian Coffey told the Maitland Mercury.
"I honestly don't think the service has ever been marketed quite as well as it could have been - but that's not surprising because that's not what we do.
"So as District Governor I was in Christchurch last year watching some of the other film entries and thought, wow, we could do one on MHERV and I reckon it would be better than these."
MHERV has been around since 2008, when Rotarian Tony Mackenzie began discussions with the General Manager of Western District Hospital in Mudgee, Joy Adams, about the incidence of late presenting, poor health events among rural men.
It was decided to try to screen middle aged and older men in NSW rural communities to see if simple tests could identify men’s health issues earlier, thereby bringing them to a doctor before otherwise treatable conditions became too serious.
They borrowed an old caravan and took it to eight towns in the western districts of NSW. While they discovered a resistance from men to be tested, the MHERV founders found that keeping the health checks low key, and anonymous, improved their chances of seeing men in the curtained off interiors of the van.
Men were assured that their tests would remain confidential, and that they would only be contacted if the results were serious.
Since then, and with the growing trust of regional blokes, many lives have been saved following the free, 10-minute consultations.
“We don’t know how many rural men have already died suddenly for want of a basic health check or how many we will save on future trips. But people who have not seen their doctor for several years are in high numbers in rural areas. Many men just drop dead in the paddock, and nobody saw it coming!” says Rotarian Michael Weatherall.
The caravan got an upgrade in 2013 and in 2017, and the program has since consolidated around a 12-month scheduled tour with greater coverage and results.
In 2019, MHERV reported 4,880 checked people (nearly all men). Each check is categorised: 1 (Indicators look OK, but see your GP for a general medical assessment), 2 (See your doctor, the tests have indicated a condition which may require treatment), 3 (See your doctor IMMEDIATELY, the tests show you have a serious health risk). Of the 4,880, 2,019 were categorised 1, 2,724 were categorised 2, and 137 were categorised 3. Wherever possible the MHERV nurse follows up the cat 3 men, to ensure they have indeed seen a doctor or booked an appointment.
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View: an interview with MHERV nurse, Rob Woolley