The three-year art project improving regional health

A Pinnaroo art project designed to reduce reliance on health services and improve community health had significant positive impacts, a report has found.

Jun 04, 2024, updated Jun 04, 2024
Photo: Pinnaroo Project / Facebook

Photo: Pinnaroo Project / Facebook

The Pinnaroo Project saw more than 120 art workshops and events held in the remote town in a collaboration between the Pinnaroo community, Mallee Arts Group, and researchers from Flinders University Caring Futures Institute.

Over the three years from 2021 to 2023, 563 health screenings were carried out and 616 feedback forms completed.

The results showed participants experienced major health improvements, both mentally and physically.

The number of participants reporting no depression improved yearly in the project, from 66.9 per cent in 2021 to 76.4 per cent in 2023.

Annually, the percentage of adults who were experiencing moderate to severe depression decreased, from 33.2 per cent in 2021 to 23.5 per cent in 2023.

The decrease in depression scores between 2022 and 2023 was higher in those who took part in the project compared to those who did not, with a 10 per cent decrease compared to only four per cent in non-participants.

Health impacts were noted across mental and physical wellbeing. Photo: Pinnaroo Project / Facebook

Flinders University professor Robyn Clark said the results were “overwhelmingly positive”.

“The community really took a proactive approach to bettering their health,” she said.

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“Nearly a quarter of the population [took] part in yearly health checks including blood pressure, blood glucose, height and weight, while we also emphasised mental wellness, in a community with limited access to medical services.”

Participant feedback was positive, with 99 per cent of people saying they would attend a workshop again.

One participant said the workshops were a “good way to learn new skill and connect with people in the community”.

Located 243km east of Adelaide, Pinnaroo had a population of 768 in the 2021 census, with a total surrounding Mallee community of 223. In 2020, the town was named Ag-Town of the Year, in recognition of several community projects, including a community gymnasium, the development of a wetland, and a main street upgrade.

As with many regional communities, healthcare availability is limited, with a part-time General Practitioner consulting at the Mallee Medical Practice, the local pharmacist available three half-days a week, and no regular specialist health services available.

Workshops have included watercolours, singing classes, cookie decorating, and Aboriginal basket weaving. Photo: Pinnaroo Project / Facebook

Pinnaroo resident and co-chair of the project Julie Wallis said the project activities “created a platform for people to meet and connect outside the traditional rural past times of local sport or the pub”.

“We have seen the engagement of isolated individuals, some of whom have been local residents for years, yet our paths had not crossed before,” Wallis said.

The report indicated the estimated economic community value of the project in the coming five years would be $600,000.

Health service provision costs saved were estimated at $115,000, reduced sick leave business savings were $150,000, and labour skills development was approximated as $119,000. Improvement in business productivity during the next five years was estimated to save $41,000, and a quality of life benefit of $172,000 was calculated.

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