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Demons continue crusade to help stop trachoma

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Melbourne Football Club has returned to the Northern Territory this month to conduct junior football clinics and continue their work promoting trachoma elimination.

As part of the visit, the Department of Health along with Melbourne University's Indigenous Eye Health Unit and mascot Milpa the Goanna will encourage kids taking part in the Territory-wide training days to visit their field-side hygiene station.

Here children are encouraged to wash their hands and faces to maintain good eye health and to prevent many infectious diseases, including potentially blinding trachoma.

Dr Charles Douglas from the Department of Health's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Trachoma Program, welcomed the opportunity to work with the sporting idols to spread good hygiene messages to children and communities.

"It is great to see the football teams working with Health staff once again to spread the word of the 'Clean Faces, Strong Eyes' campaign," he said.

"We get such a great reaction from kids when they see and hear these football stars share our messages for children to take charge of looking after their health.

"The prevalence of trachoma ranges between 1-9 per cent across the Northern Territory, depending on the region. These figures show that whilst improvement has been made over the years, we need to continue our hard work to eliminate this disease.

"The highly infectious disease can be seriously debilitating and even cause blindness, but prevention is as easy as regular face and hand washing."

Professor Hugh Taylor from Melbourne University's Indigenous Eye Health Unit agreed that the partnership was a winning combination.

"We are really delighted to be working in collaboration with the Melbourne Football Club. It's amazing what high esteem these AFL players are held in the community, especially our Aboriginal players. They are fabulous ambassadors for the need for good personal hygiene and can deliver the 'clean faces, strong eyes' message to their young fans better than anyone else," he said.

Aaron Davey, a senior player with the Melbourne Football Club and trachoma ambassador said "Being a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, the rates of trachoma infection in our communities doesn't sit well with me"

"Through the partnership of the Melbourne Football Club and the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at Melbourne Uni, I am here to make a difference."

"I am in a privileged  position to give back to the community, and driving the messages of 'Clean Faces, Strong Eyes' through radio, TV and healthy football clinics throughout the Territory has already had a big impact in reducing trachoma".

"To close the gap for Indigenous health is very important and I am proud that my football club is making a difference in the Territory," he said.

Clinics will be held at Santa Teresa on Monday 15 July and at Tennant Creek on Tuesday 16 July.

The trachoma health station will also be part of the free activities on offer for kids as well as footy drills, rides, face painting and giveaways before the Demons game in Darwin on Saturday 20 July.

Media Contact: Sharon Hutton 89 515 123 or 0401 114 113