In efforts to improve overall community health, Corrections and the Christchurch campus of the Otago Medical School, have partnered to deliver the first student-led community health programme from a Community Corrections site in Canterbury.

Forty four people on community work sentence attended the first Medical Toolbox clinic, taking advantage of free sexual health screening, oral health screening, advice about available community services and affordable healthy eating. The Medical Toolbox clinic was run by fourteen, fourth year medical students, in conjunction with the Sexual Health clinic on site.

“A large number of the people we work with have poor health or are at risk of poor health,” says Canterbury Service Manager, Danna Knox. “They don’t access the services available in the community and are often unaware of what is available to them.”

“Through their sentence we endeavour to not only hold them to account for their offending, but also get them in a position where their future is brighter.”

The four clinics were set up at the Corrections site and were open to anyone on sentence allowing offenders access to the services prior to going out to undertake work in the community.

The programme follows on from the highly successful “Sex, Bugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” programme run by the University of Otago, Christchurch in Canterbury prisons and forms part of the student’s Public Health module.

“The aim for the clinic was to provide reciprocal benefit to people on probation and to medical students.” Says Jen Desrosiers, Lecturer with the Department of Population Health, University of Otago, Christchurch.

“We know that people on probation experience health inequality. For example, many people on probation face structural barriers to health including cost, social stigma, a negative healthcare experience, or lack of transport.  In turn, these barriers can lead to delayed presentation, increased morbidity and poorer outcomes. We want to facilitate a healthcare experience in this Toolbox clinic that overcomes these barriers and reduces health inequalities.”

“The Toolbox clinic also provides training for our future doctors so that they can provide care that meets the needs of this population. This means not only offering best practice, but also being knowledgeable about the services that are available within the community that people on probation can access. The interaction between people on probation and medical students was amazing to watch as they broke down barriers, had some laughs and learned together.”

The medical students all found the experience to be a useful addition to their studies. One student reflected that “the Health Toolbox event was such a success and a very valuable, practical experience for us to interact with, and learn from, a different demographic of people".

A second clinic specialising in education and testing for Hepatitis C is scheduled for July and the partners hope this will become an ongoing part of the student’s studies.

“The initiative was incredibly well received by the attendees,” says Danna Knox.

“They appreciated having a conversation about their health, knowing whether there is something they need to follow up on in the community, or how easy it can be to prepare a simple, healthy and nutritious meal from scratch.”