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13 Apr 2023

New funding supports community-led health program in Arnhem Land

University of Melbourne Dr Hasthi Dissanayake, a Research Fellow in Indigenous Health at the Doherty Institute, has secured a Northeast Arnhem Land Atlantic Philanthropies Incentive Grant to collaboratively develop programs aiming to improve the long-term health and nutrition of people living in remote communities in northeast Arnhem Land. 

Dr Dissanayake spent time in remote indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, working with communities to develop sustainable, long-term, culturally appropriate programs for the prevention of chronic diseases in remote Australian communities.  

Over the past couple of years, Dr Dissanayake and her colleagues in the Biggs Group worked with Yolŋu Elders in Northeast Arnhem Land. 

“We evaluated the impact of a community-developed and led nutrition and lifestyle program on cardiometabolic health. And we were excited to see that preliminary data show promising results with reductions in weight, waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), blood glucose and LDL cholesterol from baseline to end of the 4-month program,” Dr Dissanayake said. 

Building on the success of this project and thanks to this grant, Dr Dissanayake is now turning her attention to spark a community movement that empowers Yolŋu leaders to coordinate efforts to effect real change in blood sugar levels in the community. 

“The rates of type 2 diabetes are very high in remote Indigenous communities. With this grant, we will determine community acceptance and barriers people may have in sustaining lifestyle changes and help develop a community Nutrition Action group. The Yolŋu-led action group will support decision-making to reduce sugar consumption in community, as well as advocate for nutrition and lifestyle focused infrastructure and community activities,” Dr Dissanayake said. 

Funding: The Northeast Arnhem Land Atlantic Philanthropies Incentive Grant is a program funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and managed by the University of Melbourne, to maximise impact in Northeast Arnhem Land through the enabling of meaningful engagement and enhancement of reciprocal learning. The grant aims to provide opportunities for new programs that are of benefit to Yolŋu people of Northeast Arnhem Land.