Menzies HealthLAB comes to Darwin and Casuarina Stations

15 July 2016
The introduction of the three new, sworn, Wellbeing and Health Officers (WHOs) coincides with the increased efforts made by the PFES to improve the working conditions of employees across the organisation. A part of this is to support individual members in looking after their general health.
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Senior Constable 1/C Karen O’Dwyer (one of the two Northern WHOs – with Marcus Tilbrook - while Brodie Anderson is based in Alice Springs) has been working to bring the in-demand Menzies HealthLAB to PFES worksites in the Top End. Casuarina Police Station had its first visit on Friday, 24 June just gone – after their initial visit to Darwin Police Station in April. Darwin saw fifty-five members go through the six stations of the Lab, with Senior Sergeant Tony Deutrom, OIC Darwin Station, saying;

“Both Sworn and non-sworn staff were grateful at having an opportunity to participate in the HealthLAB program recently conducted at Darwin Police Station. Many - including myself - were wary initially of participating but the momentum changed and in quick time people were lining up for the work stations. It was a great opportunity to establish some base lines in health status through the measuring of biomedical risk factors and an opportunity to set some health goals in a practical and informal way. Thanks to Karen O’Dwyer and the staff from Menzies HealthLAB. I’d recommend and encourage anyone that has the opportunity to attend the HealthLAB to participate”

As a result of that success Karen arranged for them to spend a morning at Casuarina Station – where sixty-four members took the half-hour or so to go through the stations and receive their My Health Passports. The Lab, while run by Menzies, uses volunteers with medical knowledge and experience to staff the stations, take measurements, give advice and update passports. The stations include;


  1. Smoking – providing general information and measuring the carbon monoxide levels in your expired air. Even non-smokers will find this interesting when you see how much you are breathing through pollution and second-hand smoke,
  2. Blood Pressure – your current Blood pressure, explained and rated against normal levels in your passport. Expect them to write you a quick measurement note to take to your doctor if you are out of the normal range (a personal sigh, here),
  3. Food Balance – you get to estimate how much sugar there are in a range of normal drinks (some of us are surprised) and get information sheets on what one should/could be eating to make sense of the results of the Body Composition Analyser that gives you a breakdown of your body mass into fat, muscle and bone – as well as your BMI,
  4. Grip Strength – measured against the standard ranges for your age and sex (and indicator of your general fitness),
  5. Blood Oxygen – a painless (think light through your finger, rather than a blood sample) way to show you your haemoglobin and blood oxygen levels and rate them against where they should be, and
  6. Alcohol – you will have the chance to test your barkeep skills by pouring a measure of wine and one of spirits before donning the ‘beer goggles’ and negotiating the marked lines between the witches hats.

In the short term, Karen is planning to bring the HealthLAB to Palmerston Station before long. With luck that will be extended to Nhulunbuy and other regional stations later. She says ‘remember that you are welcome to attend the assessment at another station, or to come on- or off-duty as you like. The Department is providing this for free, and in work-time, hoping to get as many people as possible to have the means to control their own health futures’. 

In the longer term, Bruce Van Haeften (Assistant Director – Employee Support Services) is planning to extend access to health assessments across the organisation, which is in line with the Commissioner’s initiative to provide health and fitness assessment services generally.

As for me, my Passport tells me that my metabolic age is fifteen years higher than my real age. It is not just peer pressure that has prompted me to start riding a bicycle to work…

By Senior Constable Marcus Tilbrook