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MooGoo's hygiene initiatives combat Rheumatic Heart Disease in Indigenous communities

Joseph Guenzler -

Rheumatic Heart Disease, though preventable, remains prevalent, particularly affecting Indigenous communities.

Statistics reveal a staggering reality: nine out of ten diagnosed cases are among Indigenous individuals, predominantly aged between 5 and 14 years.

The disease often initiates with untreated skin sores, culminating in severe health complications such as heart failure, stroke, or even necessitating life-threatening open heart surgery.

Fortunately, the Strep A bacteria responsible for Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) can be neutralised through regular skin cleansing.

MooGoo, an Australian natural skincare brand, has undertaken the Prevent RHD Project in collaboration with Yarrabah, near Cairns.

This initiative aims to combat RHD by promoting skin hygiene within the community, potentially averting the onset of this debilitating condition.

Yarrabah, with more than 4,000 residents in 400 cramped residences lacking adequate water and sanitation, counts at least 165 cases of RHD.

MooGoo's initiatives feature the Yarrabah Soap Program, focusing on hand washing and skin care education to reduce Strep A exposure, with over 3,000L of Milk Wash donated so far to refill stations, along with the ongoing service of 20 refill sites by Public Health Coordinator, Renee Grosso.

MooGoo glitter bug group. (Image: Supplied)

The Healthy Housing Pilot Program (HHPP) supplies various products to close to 100 households and refill stations.

Additionally, MooGoo supports the Love the Skin You're In program, offering Healthy Living Practice lessons for children, reinforcing HHPP messaging and engaging in interactive activities focused on skin care.

Jaru, Punaba and Bunal Bardi woman and CEO of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services, Suzanne Andrews welcomed the partnership.

"This is all about making sure that we have good sanitising soaps and it’s awesome we've got special sites that we can start to dispense to the mob in Yarrabah to help prevent skin sores," Ms Andrews said.

"Because the Milk Wash is made with gentle, natural cleansers it won’t irritate the skin, so it's good for skin sores."

The Healthy Skin Heroes initiative, aimed at fostering skin health and sustainable solutions, involves health workers conducting weekly washing sessions with dolls at Yarrabah State School to teach children proper hygiene practices.

Children at Yarrabah State School washing dolls. (Image: supplied)

Since its inception a year ago, MooGoo has contributed 1,800 bottles of its Milk Wash, with an additional 398 bottles donated by customers.

Furthermore, customers have generously donated $1,990 through $5 contributions, equivalent to one 500ml bottle per donation.

MooGoo CEO Melody Livingstone said the management team was shocked by the situation and was determined to find a solution.

"It was shocking not only to me, but the entire management team and we wanted to do something about it and look for a solution," Ms Livingstone said.

"We're hoping that through this programme, we see a reduction in rheumatic heart disease cases in these communities and that these statistics can be used to put in place a more permanent solution."

In partnership with the local health service, refill stations for the Milk Wash are now conveniently located in community hubs, schools, and sports clubs throughout the area.

Refill stations for the Milk Wash are strategically positioned at various community hubs, including Gurriny-Bukkie Rd and Gurriny-Workshop Rd (both at the Health Service), The Men's Shed, Yarrie Bakery, Yarrabah Library, Yarrabah Housing Department, Yarrabah Childcare, Yarrabah Kindergarten, Yarrabah Primary School, Yarrabah High School, St. Albans Church, the Ranger Station, Council Works Department, PCYC, Mutkin (Aged Care), Gindaja (Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation), and Seahawks Football Club.

Maddy Dodd, child health team leader Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation said "we know that skin sores are common in Yarrabah".

"If we can prevent the infection from occurring at the beginning, and prevent the skin sores, we can help reduce the devastating effects of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in our communities," Ms Dodd said.

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