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21 November 2007

WA diabetes program boosts Aboriginal health

In a Western Australian first, Aboriginal people living with Type 2 diabetes can look forward to an improved lifestyle and better health thanks to a new health education program.

WA Health Director General Dr Neale Fong said the program – Journey of Living with Diabetes – was developed to help Aboriginal people with Type 2 diabetes gain the knowledge and skills to take control of their own health.

“Research shows that Type 2 diabetes is between two and four times more prevalent among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than the whole of the Australian population,” Dr Fong said.

“Diabetes is also a major cause of chronic health problems and the death rate from diabetes for Aboriginal people is up to 17 times higher than non-Aboriginal people, so it’s crucial we work to address these inequalities.”

Journey of Living with Diabetes is the result of a three-year collaboration between South Metropolitan Public Health Unit, non-government organisations and Aboriginal people themselves.

“The successful pilot program was developed to provide culturally appropriate health information in the context of the Noongar ‘Six Seasons’,” Dr Fong said.

Eight Aboriginal Health Workers completed the intensive six-day training course in March before facilitating the pilot program within their communities.

The pilot program was well received with 88 Aboriginal people registering and 38 graduating to date.

Four Aboriginal Health Workers have commenced additional programs due to community demand.

"The pilot program has undergone thorough evaluation to ensure the final resources and program are culturally appropriate and effective,” Dr Fong said.

“We are excited about the potential this program has for improving the lives of Aboriginal people with diabetes in meaningful ways.”

Fremantle Hospital Senior Aboriginal Health Officer Doreen Turvey said the program was written in clear, simple language with fewer words and more pictures.

“It’s a program that is culturally appropriate for all Aboriginal people,” Ms Turvey said.

“People are making changes in their lives. Choosing healthier foods, doing more exercise and losing weight. These are the good news stories.”

“People have made huge changes in their lives in such a short time,” she said.

It is anticipated that the program will be rolled out throughout WA Health in the future.

The program is an adaptation of the Living with Diabetes program developed by Diabetes Australia (WA) and funded by Healthway.


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