What is Take Heart?
Take Heart is a national campaign calling for the elimination of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in Indigenous communities across Australia. The campaign has been running since 2015, beginning as a film project, but now represents a branded movement with over 5000 supporters and partners.
A community outreach program provides local communities with access to the film, website and app including essential information to recognise symptoms and access treatment for RHD. This work has contributed to mobilising a base for social activism contributing to significant Government buy-in. MooGoo has teamed up with Take Heart to increase awareness of RHD in Australia.
What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?
Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is an inflammatory disease that can affect the heart, joints, skin, and brain. Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is permanent damage to the heart valves that can occur as a result of contracting ARF. Complications from RHD are common and include atrial fibrillation, endocarditis and stroke. The damaged heart can result in heart failure and often, premature death. Heart surgery can manage some of these problems and prolong life, but it does not cure RHD.
How is MooGoo helping?
We’ve joined forces with Australia’s largest Aboriginal community to try and stamp out RHD. Yarrabah is an Aboriginal community of approximately 4000 people in 400 living facilities, located east of Cairns. Yarrabah has a high rate of RHD with more than 120 people currently diagnosed with the disease. This is due to difficult living conditions which can be overcrowded, as well as limited access to safe water and sanitary conditions.
Because we’re a skincare company, we wanted to help in the way we know best, with our skincare. To help decrease exposure to Strep and increase sanitary conditions in Yarrabah to prevent Acute Rheumatic Fever and the development of RHD, we’ve donated over 1700 bottles of our gentle cleansing Milk Wash to the Yarrabah community to help reduce the occurrence of skin sores through increased hygiene practices such as regular handwashing and bathing.
Beyond providing bottles of our Milk Wash, we’ve collaborated with the local health service to set up refill stations of our Milk Wash so that it’s easily accessible in community hubs, schools and sports clubs in the area. So far, we’ve donated enough Milk Wash to refill over 4400 bottles. This initiative keeps convenience and the environment in mind by allowing community members to come and easily refill their bottles whenever they need to.
MooGoo CEO Melody Livingstone says, “It’s really disturbing to discover that in Australia people in remote communities were having trouble accessing basic essentials like soap. 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. We're hoping that through this program, we see a reduction in RHD cases in this community and that these statistics can be used to put in place a permanent solution.”
The Documentary – Take Heart: Deadly Heart
Deadly Heart tells the inspiring story of the journey towards an RHD-free future. It is a powerful film for a general audience that celebrates Aboriginal culture and demonstrates how community-led programs can put RHD in the history books. The film incorporates themes of truth-telling, Indigenous leadership, language, culture, identity, reconciliation, education, health and self-determination. MooGoo makes an appearance in the documentary showcasing our participation in this program.
What causes ARF and RHD?
The main risk factor for the development of ARF and RHD is exposure to Streptococcus bacteria (Strep). Strep usually causes throat infections and skin sores, but the autoimmune response that takes place when there’s a Strep infection in the body can sometimes cause RHD. Exposure to Strep is most common in overcrowded housing conditions, making RHD a disease of poverty, associated with lower socioeconomic groups and status. Being linked to poverty, poor living conditions, and limited access to health services, ARF and therefore RHD, are largely preventable.
Who is affected by ARF and RHD?
RHD was once widespread across all of Australia, but today ARF and RHD continue to affect almost exclusively Indigenous Australian children and young adults, with rates being among the highest in the world. Indigenous Australians are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than other Australians, and children aged between 5 to 15 years are 55 times more likely to die it. While RHD is completely preventable, there are growing rates of RHD in Australia with over 6000 people currently living with the disease.
Why is this program so important?
Maddy Dodd, child health team leader Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation, says: “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.”
Suzanne Andrews, from the Jaru, Punaba and Bunal Bardi peoples of Western Australia’s North Kimberley region and CEO of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Yarrabah also welcomes the collaboration. “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,” Andrews says. “Because the Milk Wash is made with gentle, natural cleansers it won’t irritate the skin, so it's good for skin sores.”
Renee Grosso, Public Health Coordinator at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation, says, “MooGoo’s collaboration with our organisation, is a great demonstration of genuine commitment and desire to work with our First Nations people in a meaningful way. It also shows, MooGoo is not ‘doing’ something to the community but actually working ‘with’ our community, in a way that actually meets the needs identified by the community themselves.”