Healthy Weight for Adults and Older Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Page last updated: 21 July 2011

Obesity is markedly more prevalent amongst people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent compared to all Australians, with 25 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women being obese.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities need information that is culturally appropriate, evidence-based, easily understood, action-oriented and motivating. There is also the need to promote healthy eating to facilitate community ownership and does not undermining the cultural importance of family social events, the role of elders and traditional preferences for some foods. Food supply in Indigenous communities needs to ensure healthy, good quality food options are available at competitive prices.

Primary health care services have a central role in promoting and improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and the sector needs specialised training and resources to implement new initiatives and provide culturally appropriate advice.

The outcomes and actions for the whole population are relevant and applicable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The actions in this section are in addition to those in the ‘whole population’ section. There is also congruency between actions listed under rural and remote communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Outcomes sought:

Increased understanding by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of the health significance of overweight and obesity and ways of preventing weight gain.

Increased access by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to support for lifestyle changes, including access to information, physical activity opportunities and healthy food choices.

Increased capacity of the general health sector workforce and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health work force to effectively address overweight and obesity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples.

Actions:

Community sector

  • Work in partnership with the multi-agency Indigenous Coordination Centres and Ministerial Taskforce to develop policies and programs that are responsive to the needs of particular communities.
  • Conduct tailored communication strategies to reach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups alongside mainstream campaigns and messages.
  • Involve communities wherever possible in the design and delivery of locally based initiatives.

Health sector

Primary health care

  • Assist and encourage Aboriginal Health Workers and other primary health care workers to provide advice and motivational counselling to adults about weight management, as part of existing health checks and screening programs.
  • Incorporate nutrition, physical activity, healthy weight and chronic disease prevention into training and develop evidence-based resources for ongoing updating of these skills.
  • Encourage professional support systems for Aboriginal Health Workers working in healthy lifestyle topics and support research and evaluation of local projects.
  • Utilise the MBS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health check item to communicate more effectively the importance of physical activity, nutrition and weight management.
  • Increase the capacity of Aboriginal Health Promotion Officers in community controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations and government health services to promote nutrition and physical activity.

Education

  • Develop Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training for mainstream health care professionals related to food, physical activity, lifestyle issues and health service arrangements.

Cross-sector

Environments

  • Foster cross sector collaborative projects with sporting groups and local government to increase participation in physical activity by providing increased/new opportunities, especially for women.
  • Consider mechanisms to sustain programs on physical activity, nutrition and weight management that have been shown to be effective.
  • Strengthen the implementation of dog control and other environmental health initiatives, to provide safe and attractive settings for physical activity in rural and remote communities.

Education

  • Facilitate/provide future education opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to study nutrition at tertiary levels, such as through a scholarship scheme.

Food supply

  • Work with the food industry and community stores to improve both the affordability and range of healthy food choices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • Increase the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander non-health workforce and Indigenous Environmental Health Officers to promote nutrition, including training for Indigenous store managers, establishing corporate/business partnerships and information and/or training on food safety issues.
  • Identify health outcomes and food supply as key areas of action in shared responsibility agreements.

Monitoring and surveillance

  • Ensure significant participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in national surveys by enhancing the sampling frame and applying culturally appropriate recruitment strategies.
  • Investigate ways to undertake whole-of-community, community driven research with a specific focus on urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.