An exercise program funded through VicOutreach Aboriginal Health is working to improve the health of families and reduce chronic disease in Gippsland’s Baw Baw Shire.
The Be Deadly, Be Healthy program was developed by the West Gippsland Healthcare Group (WGHG) in response to both evidence of the need to improve Aboriginal health and support from the local community. There were previously no physical activity programs for the Aboriginal community in this area.
“We met with the local Aboriginal community and health service, Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation, to determine the need for and interest in the proposed program,” said Angela Jacob, Manager of WGHG’s Physiotherapy Department. “They were very encouraging and supportive of our proposal.”
The opportunity to access funds through VicOutreach Aboriginal Health in early 2014 was timely and WGHG submitted an application to the Rural Workforce Agency Victoria (RWAV), which administers the program. Following confirmation that Be Deadly, Be Healthy was funded for an initial 18 months, WGHG worked with the local Aboriginal community to develop the program.
Led by enthusiastic WGHG physiotherapist, Kristy Dougheney, the result is a weekly physical activity program that involves exercise sessions, group walks, gym circuits and cardio/strengthening exercises. Other activities planned include bike riding and Zumba classes.
The program is freely available to all Aboriginal people in the local area. Upon joining the program, participants undergo an assessment and discuss their health goals. According to Kristy, most people aim to lose weight, with some having fitness-based goals such as distance running and team sport. An evaluation of each person’s progress occurs every three months.
A key feature of the program is its family-based approach, where participants are encouraged to involve their family in talking about what they’d like to achieve through the program. Activities that can be done together in between weekly exercise classes are encouraged. An aim is for children and parents to exercise together, instilling good habits early that lead to healthy long-term behaviour.
Securing VicOutreach Aboriginal Health funding has enabled the WGHG team to undertake longer-term planning for Be Deadly, Get Healthy. It is intended that community staff at Ramahyuck and the local gym will be trained as needed to ensure that the service is sustainable.