Journalist John Thompson-Mills reports from Adelaide on some of the innovative health programs that featured at the NACCHO Summit in Adelaide yesterday.
Yesterday we told you about the bush camps that have given disabled members of the Warburton community newfound confidence, better health outcomes and greater acceptance and respect within the community and family unit.
Today we want to tell you about another simple but effective community-led initiative from the Western Desert Township. To help reduce the impact of chronic disease, the community has set up the Warburton Women’s Exercise Group.
Regularly reviewed to incorporate lessons learned, by the end of June, more than 90 community members were involved in the exercise group. When it began in April, there were five.
Warburton women Julie Porter and Lynnette Smith originally came up with a plan involving walking, a ladies-only gym, cooking classes and swimming at the local pool. It would happen three days a week.
Because of the heat, this had to happen at sunset, but the women say they enjoyed “stretching and laughing together as the full moon rose over the community.”
Now as many as 20 are in each group and the culturally appropriate program has increased to include softball, jogging, dancing and when it’s cold, indoor exercise.
They say they feel good about making their “blood sugar low and losing weight,” a feeling confirmed by visiting specialists. The community has even produced an exercise DVD.
As with the bush camp, it’s the community that drive the program as they are considered the experts of their own health and well-being. This fosters trust and respect.
A qualified trainer will visit Warburton later this month to show community members how to maintain a quality exercise program.
Catering for health
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the fight against obesity and chronic disease has seen the Queensland Aboriginal Health Council (QAIHC), develop an innovative program around food catering guidelines.
These guidelines resulted from a 2004/5 survey that showed less than half of Indigenous people ate fruit at a rate that satisfied 2003 dietary guidelines.
As for vegetables, the figure was much worse, just eight percent.
So guidelines were drawn up that: follow the Australian Guideline to Healthy Eating; limit the amount of saturated fats, sugars and salt; recognise & meet special dietary requirements of staff and visitors where possible; and recommend that one QAIHC staff member be responsible for identifying local caterers that agree to the guidelines.
Staff are made aware of a preferred list of caterers.
- At least 80% of total food offered is healthy
- At least one option is vegetarian
- At least 1/3 food is fruit and/or vegetables
- Vending machines and fundraising drives should also promote healthy options
- When providing food, caterers and staff must follow adequate food safety measures
Despite battling staffing and accreditation issues, which have somewhat stifled implementation, after 12 months the Catering Guidelines have generated some real changes.
The 12-month report showed that nearly 80% liked the food offered, with 86% reporting they ate less unhealthy food in that period.
Numerous venues are also offering healthy menus, while the preferred caterers say they are now more aware of healthy food options.
These Catering Guidelines are now spreading to other service providers, including drug and rehabilitation services and the Cancer Council.
QIAHC staff say the key from here is to maintain a turnover recipes and provide the nutrition workshops that will keep the providers up to date with any new tastes and trends.
For previous Croakey reports from the Summit
• Making Telehealth part of the future
• A call for better support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
• Improving the lives of disabled people in remote communities: case study from Warburton
• The road to Closing the Gap may be turning a corner
• “Absolutely awesome” tweet reporting from NACCHO Summit
• Prof Ngiare Brown on the cultural determinants of health
• Previewing the summit and some suggestions for Q and A
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