“Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders at the national, regional and local levels have the right to full participation in health service design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation. This is integral to closing the gap in life expectancy within a generation”. 1
In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, some lifestyle behaviours — such as smoking, poor nutrition/diet, physical inactivity and excessive use of alcohol — have had a terrible impact on the health status of individuals and communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are two and a half times more likely to have poor health than non-Indigenous Australians 2 and more likely to die from many conditions.
Chronic diseases are the main reason for the large gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.
Chronic diseases are the result of the poor lifestyle behaviours that have been introduced over a long period of time. However, they can often be prevented if people know what causes them and make healthy lifestyle choices to help reduce their risk of developing these conditions.
Preventive health promotion activities have led to major improvements in the areas of tobacco use, drink driving and HIV/AIDS control.
Although health promotion and prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is still developing, there is opportunity and hope for it to achieve similar results in the area of preventive chronic disease.
The long term goal of health promotion is to make a positive impact on the healthy behaviours of individuals, their families and the wider community.
The diagram above, the ‘Mandala for health’ 3, shows the links between human health, community, culture and the natural environment. To deliver effective health promotion in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, you need to first understand what these influences are. There are four key elements which influence people’s health:
- Work environment
- Built environments
- Health care systems
Each of these elements is strongly shaped by our cultural values, attitudes and beliefs, and affects the choices and the decisions people make about their health. This is why it is important that the people who share these cultural values are involved in the development of health promotion activities.
This Community Health Action Pack is about health promotion and can be used by anyone who wants to run a project to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing.
This may include:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and community workers
- Health professionals
- Elders, community leaders and community organisations
The pack is designed to be flexible so that communities and organisations can use it to suit their own needs. It includes templates, examples, checklists and tips to help with planning a health promotion project.