Underneath the island sun, surrounded by the salty sea, children from the Torres Strait Islands are laying down hip hop tracks to educate their community about the importance of healthy skin.

Children from Boigu, Saibai, Badu, Mabuiag, St Pauls, Warraber, Poruma, Masig, Mer, and Erub Islands in the Torres Strait worked with Ryan Samuels, known as Trooth, to create Healthy Skin, Healthy Mepla.

The video was created from a community-run research workshop that was aimed at impacting community knowledge around skin health, hygiene, disease and healthy living.

The workshop ran alongside a health workshop in July which was delivered in local language to over 50 children from the Torres Strait and was coordinated by Pelista Pilot – the first Indigenous research officer employed by Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service. Ms Pilot began planning to create the music video not long after.

“I think it is really important that the community knows about skin health, and how to prevent themselves from getting skin infections,” Ms Pilot said.

Dr Allison Hempenstall, Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Medical Officer worked alongside Ms Pilot on the project.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a high rate of skin sores and scabies which are commonly caused by group A. streptococcal – a bacteria that can live on our skin and sometimes cause small infections,” Dr Hempenstall said.

“After that infection, the body can get a bit mixed up [and] instead of targeting bacteria, target the heart causing acute rheumatic fever, or rheumatic heart disease or other problems.”

The power of the music video lies within its relevance and connection to the community who created it.

“A lot of health promotional material across Australia, although fabulous, is directed at Aboriginal Australia. Not really Torres Strait Island Australians.”

“The dusty deserts aren’t the landscape that Torres Strait Islanders are used to and feel is part of their culture. To have the ocean around and to have people sitting on the beach and playing football in their community makes this message so much more powerful,” Dr Hempenstall said.

The music video has been hugely successful and is now used in health centres across the Torres Strait to further promote healthy skin.

Dr Hempenstall has already noticed the significance of the video during her time running a clinic on Coconut Island (Poruma).

“The kids remember the lyrics and they have their parents there too, it was the best result,” she said.

“We are really hoping we can use this video when kids come into the clinic and you can show them something that shows their community, encourage them and educate them.”

The team hope that campaigns such as this can continue in the Torres Strait, working towards educating the community to look after not only their bodies, but one another.

To access the video, click here: https://vimeo.com/357441458.

By Rachael Knowles