NACCHO #NNW2016 Aboriginal Health and Nutrition : What works to keep our mob healthy and strong?


” More effective action is urgently required in order to reduce the unacceptable health inequalities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

During National Nutrition Week, 16-22 October 2016 NACCHO highlights food insecurity and nutrition-related chronic conditions are responsible for a large proportion of the ill-health experienced by Australia’s First Peoples who, before colonisation, enjoyed physical, social and cultural wellbeing for tens of thousands of years. Food and nutrition programs, therefore, play an important role in the holistic approach to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Key Recommendations

  1. Consistent incorporation of nutrition and breastfeeding advice into holistic maternal and child health care services.
  2. Creation of dedicated positions for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people to be trained and supported to work with their local communities to improve food security and nutrition.
  3. Development of strategies which increase access to nutritious food, such as meal provision or food subsidy programs, should be considered for families experiencing food insecurity.
  4. Adoption of settings-based interventions (e.g. in schools, early childhood services and sports clubs) which combine culturally-appropriate nutrition education with provision of a healthy food environment.

The evidence suggests that the most important factor determining the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander food and nutrition programs is community involvement in (and, ideally, control of) program development and implementation.

Working in partnership with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health professionals and training respected community members to deliver nutrition messages are examples of how local strengths and capacities can be developed. Incorporation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and culture into program activities is another key feature of strength-based practice which can be applied to food and nutrition programs.”

Food and nutrition programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: what works to keep people healthy and strong?

Download full report food-and-nutrition-programs-aboriginal-what-works

The authors would also like to acknowledge the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) for their contribution to this work.

Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA), Canberra.

Nutrition Australia, the country’s leading non-profit nutrition organisation and creators of the Healthy Eating Pyramid, is challenging all Australians to take the pledge to eat more veg during National Nutrition Week, 16-22 October 2016.

With an alarming 96% of Australians failing to eat their recommend daily intake of vegetables, Nutrition Australia’s Try For 5 theme encourages all Australians to discover new ways to add veg to their day.


The recommended daily intake for people over 4 years of age is around 5 serves of vegetables and legumes a day (75g per serve), yet data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics shows that the average Australian eats around half that amount.

“It’s the food group that we eat the least, yet it’s the one we should eat from the most!” said Lucinda Hancock, Accredited Nutritionist and CEO of Nutrition Australia Vic Division.

“Whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned, eating a rainbow of vegetables every day is one of the easiest things we can do to improve our health and wellbeing.”

“Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants which all help keep our minds and bodies working day-to-day, and reduce our risk of chronic disease in the future.”

President of Nutrition Australia, Rob Rees said “Our Healthy Eating Pyramid has been advising Australians to eat a diet of mostly plant foods, including vegetables and legumes, for over 30 years. Sadly, we know that most Australians don’t eat the balanced diet that’s recommended by the Pyramid, and this is why we’re seeing such high rates of diet-related diseases.”

“In fact the average Australian gets over a one third of their daily kilojoules (energy) from ‘junk foods’, like biscuit and cakes, confectionery, take away foods, sugary drinks and alcohol,“ said Mr Rees .

Nutrition Australia is supporting the Try For 5 goal with 3 key strategies to boost vegetable intake:



Eat a rainbow

Eating a variety of vegetables each day exposes us to a wide range of nutrients for better health. We should eat different coloured vegetables every day because each colour carries its own set of unique health-promoting properties called ‘phytochemicals’ that give vegetables their colour, flavour, taste and even smell.


Try something new

Trying new things is a great strategy to boost your vegetable intake. Whether that’s trying new vegetables, a new recipe, or trying vegetables in a way that you normally don’t consume them like at breakfast or in a snack. Experimenting with vegetables and preparing foods can give you the knowledge, skills and confidence to easily prepare vegetables to suit your tastes, which makes you more likely to buy, cook and consume them.


Love your legumes

2016 is International Year of the Pulse (another term for legumes) and they are a cheap and versatile source of fibre, protein plus many other important nutrients. We should have 2–3 serves of legumes a week for health benefits.

Sibylla Stephen is one half of children’s band, Teeny Tiny Stevies, who are ambassadors for National Nutrition Week 2016.

Mum-of-two Sibylla and her bandmate and sister, Beth, are releasing the animated video for their song “I Ate A Rainbow” during National Nutrition Week, which was written as a tool to help parents teach their children about why we should eat different coloured vegetables every day.

And it’s a perfect match with the storybook, I’m having a rainbow for dinner published by Nutrition Australia’s Queensland Division.

“I’m thrilled to be an ambassador for National Nutrition Week because I think we can all do with learning some new quick and easy ways to feed ourselves and our families with vegetables,” Sibylla said.

“My children are four and one, and their relationship with food changes as they get older. It can be incredibly frustrating to get them to eat their veggies, but I always encourage them to try different veggies cooked in different ways, and learn what they do and don’t like.

“As parents we try so hard to make sure our kids are well nourished, but the stats show that we’re not taking our own advice. I think ‘eating a rainbow’ is a great message for children and adults alike!”

Report continued

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan takes a “whole-of-life” approach to improving health outcomes. Priority areas include maternal health and parenting; childhood health and development; adolescent and youth health; healthy adults and healthy ageing.

This Policy Issues Brief provides a synthesis of the evidence for food and nutrition programs at each of these life stages. It answers questions such as, what kind of food and nutrition programs are most effective for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? And, how should these food and nutrition programs be developed and implemented?

Nutrition research has been criticised for focusing too much on quantifying dietary risks and deficits, without offering clear solutions.

Increasingly, Aboriginal organisations are calling for strength-based approaches, which utilise community assets to promote health and wellbeing.

Evidence-based decision-making must consider not only what should be done, but also how food and nutrition policies and programs can be developed to support the existing strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

National Nutrition Week runs from 16-22 October 2016. Click here for recipes, tips and resources to discover new ways to add veg to your day.

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