• Dr Sean Taylor celebrates his graduation with members of the Torres Strait Islander community. (Supplied)
Dr Sean Taylor is hoping to boost health outcomes in his Torres Strait Islander community, after finishing a four-year public health doctorate aimed at improving diabetes care and management.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

21 Dec 2017 - 11:40 AM  UPDATED 21 Dec 2017 - 12:23 PM

The Torres Strait region has the highest prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the country – more than three times the rate of other Australians. 

Originally from Murray Island, Dr Taylor has seen those statistics brought to life.

"It was all around seeing with the naked eye how diabetes, or poorly-controlled diabetes, can destroy a population," he tells NITV News.

"Some of the secondary complications are renal disease, cardiovascular disease like heart attacks, we have eye problems, we have poor sensation in our feet – so a lot of people who have family members with diabetes will have seen some of this."

Dr Taylor enrolled as a health worker of Murray Island (Mer) in the early 90s, before becoming one of the first three nursing students to graduate from James Cook University's (JCU) Thursday Island campus in 2005. His nursing career took him to hospitals in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, before he returned to study a public health doctorate at JCU's Cairns campus. 

This week, after four years of study, including overseas internships at universities in the USA, Canada and Germany, Dr Taylor graduated with a public health doctorate, specialising in improving diabetes care and management in remote health care settings. 

"The community’s so proud, they’re such a beautiful population," he says. 

"They're very excited and happy and overwhelmed with a lot of the work that I’ve done. All I can do is provide the best type of care to the hospital and health service, to try and improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes in the north of Queensland."

Dr Taylor hopes to implement his research in his role as principal adviser at the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service. One of his top priorities: encouraging patients to take ownership of their diabetes management by eating well and exercising. 

"We’re trying to reduce hospitalisation, keeping people well-managed. And I keep saying to my patients, the health service can only provide 50 per cent of the care, the other 50 per cent has to come from the patient," he says.

"The patients themselves need to take on the responsibility, own the problem and say 'ok this is what I need to do to better myself so that I have better control of my diabetes'.

"Sometimes financial situation has an impact, we understand that, but it doesn’t cost anybody anything to exercise. It doesn’t cost anything to stop smoking."

Dr Taylor aims to encourage these behaviours by having a dedicated nurse for diabetes care, and engaging with patients through social media.

He hopes to soon see more Torres Strait Islanders working to improve health in the region. 

"We’re seeing a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses, there are a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in dentistry, so hopefully in the near future this may come out into the remote communities," he says.

"The doors are opening for people to further their studies and increase their professional development." 

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