Striving for equal access to health for rural communities on International Women’s Day
“At Pop, our mission is simple; we want to empower families from all over Australia to reach their full potential.” Heidi Trusler
If there is one thing Heidi Trusler is passionate about, it’s health outcomes for people living in rural and remote Australia.
In addition to being able to do stock work or expertly mustering on the back of a horse, she is also the CEO and Founder of Pop Family, Australia’s leading online speech therapy provider, and mother to one-year-old daughter, Minnie.
Having grown up on a sheep and cattle property between Cunnamulla and Bollon, approximately 600 kilometers inland of Brisbane, she has experienced the lack of accessible health services available to families living in rural and remote areas firsthand.
“I am the third child of four and my eldest brother, Jack, now aged 35, has down syndrome. My mother tells a story of once driving a 12-hour round trip for Jack to visit a speech therapist in Toowoomba and it’s safe to say, she wasn’t impressed with the session and was questioning if it was going to be worth it. However, it was their only choice,” Heidi explains.
My passion for speech therapy came from wanting to enter a caring profession and seeing people, like my brother, live a more fulfilled life.”
Heidi speaks openly about her experiences working in both rural and metropolitan areas and the obvious gap she observed between service delivery and access to allied health,
“Having worked in a number of speech pathology roles, I’d seen enough of the lack of quality services in the bush, the waiting lists and the sheer battle that families have to go through to access health services, let alone a good or great service.”
Many of the team are rural and regionally based and Heidi is adamant that every family, no matter where they are located should be able to have a choice of therapist. She believes that by creating a competitive environment, like in the city, they can help create quality services,
“A lot of the time, speech therapy can be used as a box-ticking exercise or merely a transactional service, but what we’re trying to do is make it more outcome focused. The big misconception about speech therapy is that it is only for those who have very complex difficulties, but it encompasses everything to do with being able to eat, speak and socialise confidently; something that every single human needs to communicate with other people.”
In exciting news, Heidi and her team of speech pathologists are partnering with LiveBetter to offer thirty-five free speech assessments at the LiveBetter Euston Pre-School from 12th-14th April.
“Euston was selected as the pilot location as we wanted to target an area that didn’t have extensive access to great telehealth or technology services and so it seemed like a great fit. We’re looking forward to educating parents about what speech therapy can do and how it can help their children, as well as seeing some children who might not otherwise be seen.”
Kellie Martin, Philanthropy & Partnerships Manager for LiveBetter, echoes Heidi’s comments,
“The link between speech therapy, successful communication, and positive life-long outcomes for people is well documented. Without speech intervention, a child who has communication challenges is more likely to have educational difficulties and less positive peer interaction. This partnership with Pop means families won’t have to leave the Euston community to access support for their child.
“We are hoping for this clinic to be a roaring success in Euston so we can partner with Pop in many rural locations to come.”
With this year’s theme for International Women’s Day being Embrace Equity, Heidi doesn’t sugar coat the fact that sometimes, things are not equitable for rural women, especially in accessing healthcare for themselves or their families,
“4% of the population live in rural and remote areas and that can be a barrier to accessing equitable health care… I would love for it to be possible for my sister to simply jump in her car, to drive into her local town to get an ultrasound or scan, but I also respect that telehealth won’t work for every type of health service,” Heidi says.
“As a woman in a rural area, I want to be part of building equity and ensuring there are equitable health services across regional, rural and remote Australia.”
But what’s the ultimate end goal for Heidi?
“My goal in life is to create a positive impact on the world, far greater than myself. Speech therapy has an incredible ripple effect. We are lucky to see 1000 people every week at Pop and if we improve the client’s quality of life, we’re improving the quality of their relationships with other people,” Heidi explains.
“I’ve experienced changing people’s lives through speech therapy and it doesn’t just change their life, it changes people’s lives around them.”
Do you live around Euston and Robinvale and think your child could benefit from a free speech assessment?
If you are interested in booking in an appointment at the Pop Clinic while they’re in the area, reach out to LiveBetter Euston Pre-School on 1800 580 580 or drop into the pre-school.
You can find out more about Pop Family and the work they do across regional Australia here.
Image Credit: Pop Family