Delivering a Healthy WA
Australian Better Health Initiative (ABHI)
A joint Australian, State and Territory government initiative

Indigenous Healthy Lifestyle Project

Project Example:

The Kwinana Aboriginal Health and Lifestyle Program includes:

  • Walking group
  • Referral of chronic disease patients to local clinicians for integrated care e.g. dietician, self management workshop
  • Twelve-week Health and Fitness course
  • School holiday program for parents and children e.g. cooking classes, soccer clinic
  • Monthly newsletter targeting families with health messages, information and events.

The WA Indigenous Healthy Lifestyle Programs (IHLP) assists communities in building local capacity to implement strategies that improve lifestyle and reduce risk factors for chronic disease.

Five sites where selected throughout WA - Kwinana, Peel, Norseman, Halls Creek and the Western Desert communities of Jigalong and Punmu. While each site had different priorities, they all aimed to improve health through community-based activities that promoted healthy lifestyles and improved use of services.

Key Findings

IHLPs flexible model of supporting community-based projects was successful in enabling communities to adopt healthy behaviours using a holistic approach. This was achieved through the dedication of project workers who used their good community relationships to implement the projects. The programs recorded stories which demonstrated many positive changes resulting from people having the confidence to take control of their health.

The IHLP also provided lessons on how to deliver effective Aboriginal health projects:

  • Effective governance is critical. Without good processes, projects have poor impact and outcomes. Correct processes require the full support of senior management, including a commitment to a Reconciliation Action Plan; development of consultation protocols with the Aboriginal community; and orientation for all staff in working with Aboriginal people.
  • Workforce development is important. Aboriginal project workers, especially those working in mainstream organisations, can feel isolated which may affect their ability to work effectively. Clarity of roles, effective line-management and mentoring by someone with expertise were strategies used by some project sites to increase the confidence and capacity of Aboriginal staff.
  • Relationships with other service providers were crucial to achieving improved access. Weak relationships compromise health outcomes especially when other services lack Aboriginal workers and could have benefited from closer links with the project. Project sites that had good service integration used a steering or advisory group of local service providers and formal agreements for collaboration.
  • Strategic plans and monitoring tools can be alienating for workers and are not associated with project success. An agreed set of activities and targets are sufficient for projects. These should be developed with other services after setting priorities with Aboriginal communities. Monitoring should take place through conversations between workers, other services and the community about what worked, what did not work and what should be done next. One project site with a good record of collaboration called this process ‘yarning.’

These findings are relevant to other Aboriginal health projects, such as those funded through the Council of Australian Government’s Closing the Gap program.

This evaluation was commissioned by the Office of Aboriginal Health, Department of Health, Western Australia. The Indigenous Healthy Lifestyle Program was part of the Australian Better Health Initiative: a joint Australian, State and Territory Government initiative. The full report can be accessed at http://www.cucrh.uwa.edu.au/images/stories/project/ihlp%20report%20final.pdf.

Administered by WA Country Health Service - Aboriginal Health Service Development Unit
Contact: Linda Waters