Utopia gets it right when it comes to indigenous health

A new study by Australian researchers into the health of an indigenous community has produced some interesting results.

The study set out to examine death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease (CVD) in a particular aboriginal group living in a relatively remote region in the Northern Territory, Australia.

The study involved 296 people aged 15 years or older who were initially screened in 1995; hospital and primary health care records and death certificates were then reviewed for the period up to December 2004.

The 10-year health study of the region found that the aboriginal community of Utopia appeared to have a far better health record when it came to hospitalisation and CVD and this was because the group had good primary health care services over which they had a degree of control.

However more importantly the community were still hunters and gatherers which ensured a good diet and plenty of healthy physical activity.

The study found that the community-controlled health care along with a traditional lifestyle led to the lower than usual mortality rates in the Utopia area.

Professor Ian Anderson from the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health says self-determination is a fundamental determinant of good health and leads to improved health conditions.

Dr. Kevin Rowley from the University of Melbourne says the study shows that the key to success is working with communities to identify their aspirations.

Utopia is made up of 16 communities who live in the desert north-east of Alice Springs, the community-controlled Urapuntja Health Service has a weekly roster for doctors who check on Aborigines as they live in the main a traditional lifestyle.

The community also benefited limited access to alcohol as well as social factors, including connectedness to culture, family and land, and opportunities for self-determination.

The study was a collaborative effort involving the Menzies Research Centre in Alice Springs, Melbourne University and the Urapuntja Health Centre and is published in the current issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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