A University of Newcastle research project will use social marketing, traditional Indigenous games and a photography project as part of a multi-faceted approach to improve the health of young Aboriginal people living in rural areas.

The Dharma Burra Nyinhi (Eat Strong Live Long) project, funded by the Department of Health and Ageing, will be delivered by the Many Rivers Diabetes Prevention Project (MRDPP), a 10-year research and health promotion partnership between Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service (ACMS) in Taree, Durri ACMS in Kempsey and the University of Newcastle.

University researcher, Dr Josephine Gwynn (Pictured below), said the project would deliver strategies to address the findings of the MRDPP.

“Research by the MRDPP shows that, consistent with the general population, young Aboriginal people consume excessively high amounts of poor quality foods such as hot chips, white bread and sugary drinks.

“In the context of the high burden of chronic disease and reduced life expectancy for Aboriginal people, this finding is of major concern. However the good news is that this group demonstrates relatively higher levels of physical activity than their non-Indigenous counterparts around the ages of 10 to 12 years.

“Our project will implement a social marketing and health promotion campaign to encourage healthier food choices by young Aboriginal people and support their higher physical activity levels, which, as in the wider population, tend to decline as they become older.”

The research team will communicate results through local papers, councils, schools and radio; explore working with local stores to promote healthy food choices; and share information with parents through a Facebook page. Schools with high Aboriginal enrolment will also be given boxes of fruit each week, support will be provided to canteens to provide healthy food choices, and the research team will present educational talks with a specific focus on type 2 diabetes, which is present at high rates amongst Aboriginal Australians.

Physical activity will be encouraged through Indigenous games in schools and a ‘photo voice project’ where Aboriginal children will be encouraged to photograph activities they enjoy and barriers they perceive.

“The discussion and materials generated by the photographs will be used to create local posters to encourage young Aboriginal people to maintain their physical activity levels, and to inform local physical activity programs,” Dr Gwynn said.

Dr Gwynn is working with Senior Aboriginal Project Officer Nicole Turner on this research

EMPOWER: Co-researcher Nicole Taylor

project.

Dr Josephine Gwynn is affiliated with the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour and the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH). HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.