The Looma Aboriginal community in the State’s Kimberley region is defying national trends relating to the incidence of diabetes and obesity, according to an interim report released today.
The report, which documents progress with the community-based ‘Roadmap Towards Better Health’ program, was based on the results of a health assessment of Looma residents in August this year. The program is a diabetes management and care initiative that provides regular health assessments such as eye checks and antenatal education.
A joint initiative between the WA Country Health Service (WACHS), the Unity of First People of Australia (UFPA) and Caritas Australia, the ‘Roadmap’ program promotes healthy behaviours and lifestyle choices among Aboriginal people in the Kimberley.
Health Minister Kim Hames said contrary to the Australia-wide trend of rising obesity and diabetes, rates at Looma were not increasing.
“The results are very encouraging,” Dr Hames said.
“It is pleasing to see early dividends from our policies that give a high priority to indigenous health.”
The Liberal-National Government earlier this year provided $500,000 over four years to expand the UFPA program, bringing indigenous communities and health professionals together to tackle indigenous health issues in the Kimberley.
The program provides cooking classes and nutrition programs, including the school breakfast program run jointly with Foodbank WA.
The Minister said there was an emphasis on exercise and sport programs and support provided under the Happy Family Project to promote emotional and social well-being of individuals and families.
“The Looma community members and UFPA are to be applauded for taking control of their people’s wellbeing, the increased exercise, better diet and heightened awareness that it fosters in individuals,” he said.
UFPA president Ernie Bridge said the improving health of young people at Looma was particularly pleasing.
“This is a fantastic result,” Mr Bridge said.
“It shows that with a concerted, joint effort by communities, public health departments and government, the prospects for even the most vulnerable groups can be turned around to provide extended and healthy lives for their young people.”
The report by Princess Margaret Hospital’s Endocrinology and Diabetes Services found that, based on the community health assessment, the number of people with diabetes in the Looma community had remained stable since 2003.
“Nationally it is estimated that only 50 per cent of diabetics are diagnosed, so the low number of newly diagnosed diabetics in both assessments is an indicator of sound clinical services delivered to Looma by WACHS,” Dr Hames said.
“The report showed the mean body mass index of Looma adults had not increased during six years, in contrast to national trends.”
More than 60 per cent of community members participated in the assessment.
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