Innovative program to improve Indigenous health in regional communities

Innovative program to improve Indigenous health in regional communities

UOW researchers will trial a healthy lifestyle program for Indigenous Australians in Alice Springs and Mt Isa.

Researchers from UOW have received $74,000 to trial a healthy lifestyle intervention for Indigenous Australians attending residential alcohol and other substance abuse programs in Mount Isa and Alice Springs.

Lead by Senior Research Fellow Dr Peter Kelly, from the School of Psychology at UOW, the project is funded by The Heart Foundation and is a partnership with the Drug and Alcohol Services Association Inc. of Alice Springs (DASA) and the Mount Isa Salvation Army Recovery Services Centre.

The group program aimed at decreasing smoking, increasing physical activity and improving diet, is believed to be the first healthy lifestyle program developed for people recovering from alcohol and substance abuse.

 The life expectancy of indigenous Australians is 11.5 years less than non-Indigenous Australians, with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer the leading causes of death. Despite the importance of improving the health of Indigenous Australians, there has been very limited research examining healthy lifestyle programs within Indigenous focused health settings.

Over the 12-month study period, researchers from UOW will regularly visit Mount Isa and Alice Springs to help co-facilitate the group based Healthy Recovery program.

"With funding from the Cancer Institute NSW, we are currently trialling the Healthy Recovery program across mainstream residential alcohol and other substance abuse services provided by The Salvation Army. Funding from the Heart Foundation Vanguard Grant will provide an opportunity to extend this work into Indigenous focused health settings, helping to ensure that the program is culturally appropriate and meaningful for Indigenous Australians,” Dr Kelly said.

“A large proportion of participants attending our services in Alice Springs are smokers and tend to have unhealthy lifestyles. We are excited to be trialling the Healthy Recovery program at our therapeutic community, Aranda House,” Ms Margo MacGregor, Chief Executive Officer at DASA, said.

The project also provides an opportunity for UOW to continue to establish meaningful relationships with community based health organisations, including the Salvation Army.

Gerard Byrne, Recovery Services Clinical Director at the Salvation Army Eastern Territory, said: “We are delighted that the Heart Foundation has provided this much needed funding. Improving the health of participants attending our treatment services is a priority for The Salvation Army. It also provides an opportunity to extend the long-standing and successful relationship between the UOW and The Salvation Army.”

Notes to media: Collaborating investigators on the project include the University of Newcastle’s Professor Amanda Baker and Professor Robin Callister, Dr Richard Chenhall from the University of Melbourne and Professor Frank Deane from the University of Wollongong. The Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, based at the University of Wollongong, provided pilot funding to the program, which has now been topped by the Heart Foundation.

Media contact: Dr Peter Kelly is available for interview on +61 403 756 987 or For more information, contact Elise Pitt, Media & PR Officer at UOW on +61 2 4221 3079, +61 422 959 953 or