Thanks to partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities, and organisations, researchers from the ANU Research School of Population Health have been able to provide important policy-relevant evidence for improving Indigenous health.
The research findings from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health will inform programs and policy on preventing obesity and reducing smoking.
Dr Katie Thurber’s research looked at factors promoting the maintenance of healthy weight across the childhood years.
"We know that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families across Australia—in remote, regional, and urban settings—face barriers to accessing healthy foods,” she says.
“Therefore, efforts to reduce junk food consumption need to occur alongside efforts to increase the affordability, availability, and acceptability of healthy foods."
Latest national figures show obesity rates are 60 per cent higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults compared to non-Indigenous adults.
Dr Thurber, together with Associate Professor Ray Lovett, also conducted the first comprehensive assessment of the tobacco epidemic among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
They found there have been substantial reductions in smoking over the past 20 years, particularly in the last decade. While this will lead to thousands of premature deaths averted, smoking-related deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are likely to continue to rise and peak over the next decade. This is because of the lag between smoking and the onset of some smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer.
"We need a continued, comprehensive approach to tobacco control,” Associate Professor Lovett says.
“The incorporation of Indigenous leadership, long-term investment and the provision of culturally appropriate materials and activities is critical to further reducing smoking."
Find out more about ANU research in population health.