Focus on strengths when discussing the health gap this NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is a great time to continue the conversation of Australians working together for a shared, healthier future.

“As we celebrate NAIDOC Week, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) wants to ensure that closing the health gap remains a top priority for our Australian Government. Closing the health gap means achieving health and life expectation equality for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA Chief Executive Officer.

The 2019 NAIDOC Week theme focuses on, “Voice. Treaty. Truth.”, which acknowledges the important voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when it comes to improving this gap.

With physical inactivity accounting for about 8% of the health burden among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples (compared to 6.6% in other Australians), encouraging our Indigenous communities to remain active as they age is vital.

“Higher rates of sedentary behaviours are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease. Improving physical activity levels presents a significant opportunity for health improvements and for reducing the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians,” adds Ms Hobson-Powell.

“It is important, however, that when we discuss closing the gap that we concentrate on the positives and refocus the conversation on strengths and successes.”

“Positives such as around 76% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–14 are physically active for at least 60 minutes every day, and that past research shows that Aboriginal peoples who have a chronic disease respond very well to lifestyle interventions.”

ESSA also supports the notion that local exercise professionals who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are best placed to educate and engage Indigenous communities on the benefits of exercise for their physical and mental health and well-being.

“As the accrediting body for exercise and sports science professionals, it’s important that we have a better understanding of our cultural ways of being and how this knowledge can be adapted to the way we provide sport, exercise and exercise physiology services,” adds Anita.

In line with this commitment, ESSA, in consultation with Reconciliation Australia, released their Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for 2019-2020 earlier this year.

The launch of the Reflect RAP has provided ESSA the opportunity to build the foundations for relationships and respect, as well as to lead and create real change around health and well-being for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To find out more information about NAIDOC Week, please visit the website.
To find out about NAIDOC Week activities in your area, contact your nearest Regional Office.