The Strong Family Program: an innovative model to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and Elders with reproductive and sexual health community education
|Published:||18 August 2016|
Aboriginal youth in Australia often experience high rates of intimate partner violence (family violence) and poorer reproductive and sexual health than their non‐Aboriginal counterparts. To address some of the disparities, the Strong Family Program was developed to deliver reproductive and sexual health education to Aboriginal communities in New South Wales.
Development of the program was based on an extensive consultation process with Aboriginal communities. It was implemented in three communities, with two groups from each hosting Aboriginal youth and Elders in a yarning circle within the culturally respectful frameworks of ‘men and boys’’ and ‘women and girls’’ business. An evaluation was conducted to measure reproductive and sexual health knowledge and attitude changes upon program completion, using pre‐ and post‐program surveys and yarning (focus group discussions).
Program participants comprised 48 females and 28 males. Overall, mean knowledge and attitude scores improved upon completion of the program (from 77% to 82% and from 4.15 to 4.32 out of 5, respectively). Among participants aged 20 years and under (the youngest participant was 13 years), there was an increase in knowledge (P = 0.034); among participants aged over 20 years (the oldest participant was 78 years), there was an increase in positive attitudes (P = 0.001). Participants perceived the information provided to be useful and relevant, with many reporting improved knowledge and attitudes around rights and respectful relationships.
Reproductive and sexual health education in Aboriginal communities should be based on community consultations and carried out within a culturally appropriate framework to promote greater success. Continued implementation of the Strong Family Program will promote increased understanding of respectful relationships and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal young people.
The Strong Family Program was based on an extensive consultative process that ensured leadership and involvement from Aboriginal communities, with program content and delivery based on Aboriginal pedagogy and reflecting Aboriginal cultural values. Reproductive and sexual health promotion in Aboriginal communities should be based on community consultations and carried out within a culturally appropriate framework to promote greatest success.